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LIVES OF BRITISH ENGINEERS; with an account of 

their principal works ; comprising also a History of Inland Communication in 
Britain, from the earliest period to the death of Telford. Sixth Thousand. 
Portraits and 200 Woodcuts. 2 vols. 8vo. 42s. 


SELF-HELP ; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct. 
Fifty-fifth Thousand. Post 8vo. 6s. 



Fifteenth Thousand. Woodcuts. Post 8vo. 6s. 



Reprinted from the 'Quarterly Review.' Fcap. 8vo. Is. Gd. 

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'7ZJ&7L. . 

rTie partrait 









" Bid Harbours open, Public Ways extend ; 
Bid Temples, worthier of God, ascend; 
Bid the broad Arch the dang'rous flood contain, 
The Mole projected, break the roaring main ; 
Back to his bounds their subject sea command, 
And roll obedient rivers through the land. 
These honours, Peace to happy Britain brings ; 
These are imperial works, and worthy kings." 




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The right of Translation is reserved. 




THE following volume contains a revised edition of the 
Life of George Stephenson, with which is incorporated 
a Life of his son Robert, late President of the Institute 
of Civil Engineers. While complete in itself, this book 
also forms the continuation of the biographical history 
of British engineering- -the earlier portions of which 
are comprised in the two volumes of 6 Lives of the 
Engineers' already published, and brings the subject 
down to the establishment of the railway system, in the 
course of which British engineers have displayed their 
highest skill and achieved their greatest triumphs. 

Since the original appearance of the work some six 
years ago under the title of ' The Life of George Ste- 
phenson,' much additional information relative to the 
early history of railways and of the men principally 
concerned in establishing them, has been communicated 
to the author by the friends and pupils of the two Ste- 
phensons, as well as by the late Eobert Stephenson 
himself, of which the author has availed himself in the 
present edition. 

Although it is unusual to embody two biographies in 
one narrative, it will probably be admitted that in the 
case of the Stephensons such a combination is peculiarly 
appropriate,- -the life and achievements of the son having 
been in a great measure the complement of the life and 


achievements >f the father. The cure with which the 
elder Stephenson, while occupying the position of an 
obscure workman, devoted himself to his son's education, 

and the /eal witli which the latter repaid th" affectionate 
sell-denial of his father, are among* the most effective 
illustrations of the personal character of both. As 
regards their professional history also, it will he found 


that the relations which existed between them, more 
particularly with reference to the improvement of the 
locomotive and the construction of the first passenger 
railways, were of so intimate a kind, that it is impossible 
to dissociate the history of the one engineer from that of 
the other. 

These views were early formed by the author as to 
the proper treatment of the subject of George Stephen- 
son's Life, and were carried out in the preparation of 
the original work, with the concurrence of Robert Ste- 
phenson, who supplied the requisite particulars relating 
to himself. Such portions of these w r ere accordingly 
embodied in the narrative as could with propriety be 
published during the lifetime of the latter, and the 
remaining portions are now added, with the object of 
rendering the record of the son's life, as well as the 
early history of the railway system, more complete. 

It may not be out of place to explain briefly the 
circumstances in which the book originated and was 
written, and the sources from wliich the facts it con- 
tains were derived, as a guarantee to the reader that 
every possible pains have been taken to secure due 
authenticity and accuracy of information. 

The subject of a biography of George Stephenson was 
brought under the author's notice shortly after the death 


of the engineer in 1848, by tlio present Mayor of Leeds. 
James Kitson, Esq., a large locomotive-manufacturer in 
that town, and an intimate friend of both the Stephen- 
sons. Mr. Kitson thought that the author's business 
connection with railways, and his personal knowledge of 
the elder Stephenson, with other qualifications, fitted him 
for the task of writing his biography. The suggestion 
was very tempting ; but the preparation of such a work 
involved too much labour to be lightly undertaken, and 
beyond putting together a few memoranda, which were 
published as an article in a London journal, nothing 
further was then done in the matter. 

In the mean time a very suggestive and able article 
made its appearance in the Athenceum of December 8, 
1849, urging the claims of the subject of railway enter- 
prise and its early history upon the attention of literary 
men. The reviewer pointed out that although there 
then existed abundance of railway statistics, these would 
be found of very little use to the historian who, a century 
hence, looking to the extraordinary effects of the railway 
system on the means and manners of Great Britain, 
should try to relate how it arose, with what efforts and 
influences, and by what manner of men it was brought 
to pass within a few years- -to discover, in short, some- 
thing like what we now vainly seek and regret to find 
untold of the great mechanical novelties of the last 
century. " It is this," he observed, " which we now 
desire to have collected, while the memory of the chief 
facts is yet fresh, while many of the first authors are 
still living, and while of those deceased- -including a 
principal author of the system, Greorge Stephenson- 
there are survivors able to supply authentic and lively 


memorials It is surely worth writing; and 

if the task be not soon accomplished, the materials 
requisite for its complete execution will Lave disappeared 
beyond recall. The real value of such records- -the 
place due to their objects in the national annals- -has 
hitherto been little regarded. Professed historians of 
the old school overlook them with dignified contempt ; 
more philosophical moderns at best admit them here and 
there to a summary notice made up of dry statistical 
matter, that reads but tamely among reports of party 
struggles and foreign disputes of the vanities of courts 
and the achievements of armies. Our purpose here is 
to vindicate the claims of the subject and to show what 
part of it may well be preserved for the instruction of 
future times." 

The only attempt made to work out the literary design 
so ably sketched in the Athenceum, was by Mr. Francis, 
in his ' History of the English Railway/ which, though 
an exceedingly graphic resume of the early history of 
railways, failed in the main point of biographic interest 
in connection with the subject. A series of summary 
articles on the life and works of George Stephenson was 
also published by Mr. Hyde Clarke, C.E., in the ' Civil 
Engineer and Architect's Journal ;' but, though valuable 
as a collection of facts and dates, it was not a biography, 
and the Life of George Stephenson, therefore, remained 
to be written. 

To ascertain Robert Stephenson' s views as to a Life 
of his father, the author called upon him at his office in 
Great George Street in March, 1851 ; Mr. Kitson having 
previously written him on the subject. Mr. Stephenson 
then said that a Memoir of his father had been fre- 


(juently spoken of, but lie had almost given up the hope 
of seeing it undertaken. He did not think the theme 
was one likely to attract the attention of literary men of 
eminence, nor did he seem to be at all sanguine as to its 
popular interest, though his views on this point after- 
wards underwent a change; but he promised that, in 
event of the author deciding to prosecute the proposed 
biography, he should give his best assistance in supplying 
the necessary facts. 

Furnished by him with letters of introduction to 
several of his more intimate friends in Newcastle- 
among others to Mr. Budden, his business manager at the 

Forth Street Works the author shortly after made a 


visit to that place, with the object of ascertaining what 
materials could be obtained for the purposes of the pro- 
posed memoir. After three or four days' diligent search 
it was found that the results, when reduced to shape, 
were of a very meagre kind. Books and newspapers 
were of no avail. The information wanted existed but 
in the memories of individuals, from whom it could only 
be gathered by direct personal intercourse and by slow 
degrees. Many of them were unlettered men, who, 
though they could communicate in conversation what 
they remembered, could not place it on written record. 
Others, possessing information and able to communicate 
it in writing, were too much engrossed by business 
affairs to give the requisite time for the purpose. Thus 
the author shortly became persuaded that to prepare a 
satisfactory Life of George Stephensoii from authentic 
sources, required an actual residence of some period in 
the district where he had lived ; and as the pursuits 
in which he was engaged at the time rendered this out 



\}f the OjiirMion. In- communicated t Robert Stephenson 
his ivirivi ;>i noi bciiiir al>!r. under these circumstances, 
tn prosecute tin- proposed biography . 

Thus three more years passed, during which nothing 
Further was done. X" biographer of George Stephenson 
appeared; and the persons capable of turnisliin-- infor- 
mation respecting liim were heinir rapidly thinned <>H 
l,\- death. The author had himself almost dismissed tin- 

subject from his iiiiml, \vlifii circumstances occurred in 
connection ^'itli liis railway occupation wliicli rendered 
it neeessnry for liini to reside at Newcastle-oipon-Tyrie 
luring tlie suniinei 1 of 1854. He was thus unexpectedly 
] 'laced in a position to prosecute at his leisure the in- 
tended inquiries relative to the Stephenson biography. 
Much of the desired information came directly in his 
way, and the rest he went in search of. It became his 
recreation in the summer evenings to visit the places 
where George Stephenson had lived, Wylam, where 
he was born,- -Dewley, Callerton, Xewburn, and Wil- 
ling-ton Quay, where he had worked as gin-driver, fire- 
man, brakesman, and engineman by turns, and Killing- 
worth, where he had invented the safety-lamp and 
worked out the problem of the locomotive. All these 
places were within easy reach of Newcastle by railway ; 
and thus, helped by the recollections of the engineer's 
former associates, his life was traced from boyhood to 
manhood, from the cradle almost to the grave. 

All who had known George Stephenson in his early 
years were proud to speak of him, and to communi- 
cate what they remembered of his history. Though he 
had risen so much above them, there did not seem to 
mingle an atom of jealousy or envy in their recollections 


of him. They begrudged him neither his prosperity 
nor his fame. They spoke of " George ' as if he had 
been of their own kin, a member of their own family ; 
and were as proud of his career as if it had been their 
own. There was much that was very graphic in their 
relation of the incidents in " George's ' early life, the 
vividness of which, the author fears, may have escaped 
in the process of reporting. But so far as any merit 
belongs to the earlier part of the narrative, he readily 
acknowledges that it is in a great measure due to the 
working men from whose lips he gathered it- -colliers, 
brakesmen, and enginemen, mostly old men, some of 
them disabled by accidents and hard work- -whom he 
visited in succession at Wylam, Callerton, Newburn, 
Willington, and Killingworth. 

While residing at Newcastle, the author was also 
enabled readily to visit Darlington, and to gather from 
the lips of the venerable Edward Pease, to whom he 
had been introduced by a letter from Robert Stephenson, 
the interesting history of the Stockton and Darlington 
Railway, of which Mr. Pease was the projector,- -the 
account of his employment of George Stephenson as 
the engineer of that line, --and of his subsequent con- 
nection with him as partner in the locomotive foundry 
in Forth Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At Darlington 
also he obtained from John Dixon, C.E., many interest- 
ing facts relative to the survey of the Stockton and 
Darlington Railway, and the construction of the Liver- 
pool and Manchester Railway across Chat Moss, of 
which portion of the line Mr. Dixon had been the 
resident engineer. 

Having thus gathered together the materials of what, 

b 2 

MI MM r.\< 

ii was believed, would -form ;m interesting ;m<l con- 
tinuous oarrative of George Stephenson's early career, 
the author proceeded i communicate the iv>uh in 
Robert Stephenson, and i express the hop.- of now 
being able t> proceed with the proposed biography <>| 

his father. To iln's communication a replv was re- 


ceived, dated "Dover, L'c.ili Sept., L854," in whiel, 

Mr. Stephenson slid- U I am triad In hear thai VMM 
have nnt Driven up the idea of writing a incnmir ni' 
mv late ratlin-; and now that I liavr nmre K-isiire it 

will afford me pleasure In Assist you ill many points 
which are known only to myself, especially in referener 
t<> the phases wliieli the Locomotive Kn^ine put on ;M 
diffei-eiit jiei-iods of my father's active and remarkable 
life a life which spreads over a period comprising 
probably one of the most astonishing pa^es in the history 
of civilization. I am ahout to visit Newcastle, when 
I shall make a point of ^ivinir you my views as to the 
form which the memoir, in my opinion, ought to take ; 
and respecting the mechanical portions, I shall feel it 
my duty to give every assistance." 

Mr. Stephenson paid his promised visit to Newcastle 
in the beginning of October, 18.34, when he com- 
municated his views as to the treatment of the proposed 
biography, and took the author over the scenes of hi- 
own and his father's early life, relating by the way 
manv interesting incidents which the siirht of them 

. o 

recalled to his memory. The ride to Killing-worth 
will be found described at pp. 64-6 of the following 
work. The author afterwards read over to Mr. Ste- 
phenson the narrative he had by this time prepared 
of his father's early life, much of which was entirely 

PEEFACE. xiii 

new to him, though he was ready to admit its accuracy, 
considering the authentic sources from which it had 
been obtained. At a subsequent period the author 
enjoyed the advantage of much intimate personal inter- 
course with Mr. Stepheiison, and obtained from him, 
either orally or in writing, many of the important 
facts embodied in the following narrative. Besides 
what was supplied directly by himself, much additional 
information was obtained through his instrumentality 
from other gentlemen well qualified to supply it- 
from Mr. Charles Parker, relative to the early history 
of the London and Birmingham Railway ; from Mr. 
T. Sopwith, C.E., as to George Stephenson's visits 
to Belgium ; and from Sir Joshua Walmsley as to his 
journey into Spain. Mr. Stephenson continued to 
furnish the author with corrections and additions from 
time to time as they occurred to him ; and one of the 
last communications received from him, shortly before 
his death, was a letter accompanying a large bundle of 
the correspondence and papers of Mr. Joseph Sandars 
(since deceased), the projector of the Liverpool and 
Manchester Railway, of which due use has been made 
in the present edition. It has also been thought desir- 
able to append Robert Stephenson's own narrative of 
his father's inventions and improvements in the form 
in which it was communicated to the author, the record 
being valuable as an authentic memorial of the early 
history of the Locomotive Engine and Railways. 

Since the publication of the earlier editions of the 
Life of Stephenson, the author has been enabled to 
avail himself of the personal recollections of Mr. T. L. 
Gooch, C.E. ; Mr. Yaughan, of Snibston ; Mr. F. Swan- 


wick, ( 1 .K. ; :unl Mr. IJiims, of ( 1 la vrmss. M!) of wliom 
MS private secretaries to (li-di-p 1 Stephenson :it 
i periods of his professional Kfe, and afterwards 
held responsible offices either under him or in conjunc- 
tion with liim. The materials for the narrative of 
Robert Stephenson's career in Colombia have been 
kindly supplied by his friend Mr. B. S. IHingworth. 
Much of the valuable information communicated by 
these gentlemen is published for the first time in the 
present edition. 

The same pains have been taken with the illustration 
of the book as in the case of the two volumes of i Lives 
of the Engineers' already published. The author has 
had the advantage of being ably supported by his artists, 
Messrs. Leitch and - Skelton, whose illustrations speak 
for themselves, and will, he believes, be found worthy 
of the subject. 

London, November, 1862. 

NOTE. End of the " Eocket" -The important influence which this 
famous engine, which won the prize of 500/. at the Locomotive Com- 
petition at Rainhill in 1829, exercised on the general extension of 
the railway passenger system, led the author, in the early editions of 
the ( Life of George Stephenson,' to express the regret (repeated in 
the note to p. 274 of the following work) that pains had not been 
taken to ensure its preservation, in like manner as the French Govern- 
ment have preserved Cugnot's road locomotive of 1770 in the 
Conservatoire cles Arts et Metiers at Paris. It is, therefore, with 
pleasure we have to state that, while these sheets are passing through 
the press, the " Rocket " is in course, of removal to the Museum of 
Patents at Kensington, where it will find its appropriate place in that 
highly interesting national collection. 

C N T E N T S. 


The colliery districts of the North Newcastle-upon-Tyne in ancient times - 
The Roman settlement Social insecurity in the middle ages - - Northum- 
berland roads The coal-trade -- Modern Newcastle Coal haulage - 
Early waggon-roads, tramways, and railways - - The colliery workmen 
Pumping-engines - - The pitmen Coal-staiths - - The keelmen Page 1-12 


Wylain colliery and village George Stephenson's birthplace, High Street 
House Stephenson's parents The Stephenson family Old Robert 
Stephenson George's boyhood - - Dewley Burn colliery - - Sister Nell's 
bonnet- -Employed as a herd-boy -- Makes clay engines -- Employed as 
corf-bitter Drives the gin-horse Black Callerton colliery Love of 
animals Is made assistant-fireman 13-22 


Jolly's Close, Newburn- -Wages Athletic feats -- Throckley Bridge "A 
made man for life " Appointed engineman - - Studies his engine - - Ex- 
periments in bird-hatching Puts himself to school and learns to read 
His schoolmasters Progress in arithmetic His dog Learns to brake 
Brakesman at Black Callerton Duties of brakesman Begins shoe-mend- 
ing Fanny Henderson - - Saves his first guinea Fight with a pitman 



Sobriety and studiousness Inventiveness Removes to Willingtou Quay - 
Marries Fanny Henderson Their cottage at AVillington Tries to invent 
a perpetual-motion machine William Fairbairn and George Stephenson 
Ballast-heaving Cottage chimney takes fire Clock-cleaning -- Birth of 
Robert Stephenson George removes to West Moor, Killing-worth Death 
of his wife Ensinernan at Montrose, Scotland Return to Killinfrworth 

O ' O 

Brakesman at West Moor Is drawn for the militia Thinks of emigrating 
to America Takes a contract for brakeing engines Improves the wind- 
ing-engine Cures a pumping-engine Appointed engine-wright of the 
colliery 37-55 


en A i ( T I:K v. 

Selt-ini|>|o\elueiit - .l"hn \Vi;_iliani -Studies ill natural philosophy - - 

tiou tit' Kolieil Steplieiismi - Scnl lii Kulter's srl 1, I'.i'iiton Hi-lire's 

M'l 1, Nc\\ e:M |r - Literary :ilni I'l i i l"Si i| '1 1 ir;i I Ilislitlltr- Steplienson 

ncates I'is -MII in mechanics -- Ride t> Killingworth - Robert Stephen- 
son's lavish trit-l<s - lie]. eats the Franklin kite-experimenl - Stephenson's 

collage, Wot Moor (Md iiiichanical expedients r<iiii|iHitii.ii in last- 
making Father and son nmkc ;i sini-dul Colliery ini]ir(ivcinciifs- 
Stephenson's mechanical expertness \':\->- ^\-~'l 


Various expedients for facilitating coal-haulage -- Sailing-waggons -- Mr. 
KduNVovth's experiments -- Ougnot's first locomotive- .steain-carria-e - 
Murdock's model locomotive Trevitliick's steam-carriage and tram- 
engine -- Blenkinsop's engine -- Chapman's and Brunton's locomotives 
The "Wylam wau-ini-way Mr. Blackett's experiments Jonathan 
Foster William Hedley The Wylam engine Stephenson deter- 
mines to "build a locomotive Lord Ravensworth - - The first Killiim- 
\vorth engine described- - The steam-blast invented Stephenson's second 
locomotive 73-103 


Frequency of colliery explosions -- Accident in the KilUngworth pit 

Stephenson's heroic conduct A safety-lamp desired Dr. Clanny's lamp 

-Stephenson's experiments on fire-damp Designs a lamp, and tests 

it in the pit --His second lamp Cottage experiments with coal-gas 

Rev. Mr. Turner -- Stephenson's third lamp --The Stephenson and 

Davy controversy- -Scene at the Newcastle Institute- The Davy 

testimonial -- The Stephenson testimonial -- Merits of the " Geordy " 

lamp .. .. .. .. 104-128 


The Killingworth mine-machinery Robert Bald's account -- Stephenson 
improves his locomotive Strengthens the road His steam-springs 

- Experiments on friction Steam-locomotion on common roads 
Karly neglect of the locomotive Makes an engine for the Duke of 
Portland - - Again contemplates emigration - - Constructs the Hetton 
railway- The working-power employed Robert Stephenson viewer's 
apprentice - - His pursuits at Killingworth - - His father sends him to 
Edinburgh University His application to study -- An early attachment 

Studies geology under Professor Jameson -- Geological tour in the 
Highlands .. 129-148 



The Bishop Auckland coal-field - - Edward Pease projects a railway from 
\Vitton to Stock ton-on-Tees The Bill rejected - - The line re-surveyed 
and Act obtained George Stephenson's visit to Edward Pease -- Stephen- 
son appointed engineer of the railway- -The line re -surveyed --Mr. Pease 
visits Killing-worth- -The Newcastle foundry projected The railway con- 
structed Locomotives ordered --Stephenson's anticipations as to railways 
- Public opening of the line - - The coal traffic - - The first railway pas- 
senger coach - - The coaching-traffic described - - The " Locomotion " engine 
Commercial results of the Stockton and Darlington Bail way- -Town of 
Middlesborough created .. Page 149-177 


Insufficiency of the communications between Liverpool and Manchester - - The 
canal monopoly - - A tramroad projected - - Joseph Sandars - - Sir B. Phillips' 
speculations as to railways -- Thomas Gray- - William James surveys a 
line between Liverpool and Manchester - - Opposition to the survey - - Mr. 
James's visits to Killing-worth --Bobert Stephenson- assists in the survey - 
George Stephenson employed The first prospectus issued Stephenson's 
survey opposed - - The canal companies - - Speculations as to railway speed 

-Sir John Barrow's views Stephenson's notions thought extravagant- 
Article in the ' Quarterly ' .. .. 1"78-200 


The Liverpool and Manchester Bill before Barliament The evidence -- George 
Stephenson in the witness-box - - Examined as to speed - - His cross-exami- 
nation The survey found defective Mr. Harrison's speech Evidence 
of opposing engineers Mr. Alderson's speech Evidence against the loco- 
motive --The Bill thrown out Stephenson's vexation -- The scheme 
revived The line re-surveyed Sir Isaac Coffin's speech The Act 
passed .. .. 201-218 


George Stephenson appointed engineer Chat Moss described - - The resident 
engineers - - Mr. Dixon's visit of inspection Stephenson's theory of a 
floating road - - Operations begun Tar-barrel drains The embankment 
sinks in the Moss - - Proposed abandonment of ' the work - - Stephenson 
perseveres The obstacles conquered Boad across Barr Moss The 
road formed The Liverpool Tunnel - - Olive Mount Cutting Sankey 
Viaduct Stephenson and Cropper - - Stephenson's labours - - Pupils 
and Assistants - - His daily life - - Practical education - - Evenings at 
home 219-241 

\viii CONTENTS. 


Robert Stepheii-ou minin^ engineer iii Colombia --Mule journey to 

- Mari.|uita -- Silver-mining - 1 Mlfiruliies with the ( 'ornislnnen - - His 
cottage at Santa Anna--LongS to return home Ri signs his post- 
Mreting with Trevithick Voyage to New York, and shipwreck-- Returns 
to Newcastle, and takes charge of the laetory -The working power of the 

Livei-| land Manchester Railway -Fixed engines and locomotives, and 

their respective advocates- - Walker and R'ast rick's report-- A pri/.e tillered 
lor the best locomotive - Discussions of the I'.oiler arrange- 
ments and heating-surface Mr. I'.ooth's contrivance -- Building of the 
" Rocket " -The competition of engines at Rainhill- - Th-j " Novelty '' and 
" Sanspareil "--Triumph of the "Rocket," and its end .. J'age 242-275 


The railway finished- -The traffic arrangements organized Public opening 
of the line Accident to Mr. Huskisson Arrival of the trains at Man- 
chester - - The traffic results - - Improvement of the road and rolling-stock 
Improvements in the locomotive - - The railway workmen The engine- 
drivers - -The railway a wonder Road-travelling improved- - The Govern- 
ment and railways Steam on common roads Joint-stock railway com- 
panies New lines projected The Grand Junction Public opposition 
to railways Robert Stephenson engineer of Leicester and Swannington 
i Jail way George removes to Snibston, and sinks for coal Stimulates 
local enterprise His liberality 27<>-300 


The London and Birmingham Railway projected George and Robert 
Stephenson appointed engineers An opposition organized Hostile 
pamphlets - - Public meetings against the scheme - - Robert Stephenson's 
interview with Sir A. Cooper The survey obstructed The line re- 
surveyed The Bill in Parliament Thrown out in the Lords The 
project revived The Act obtained The works let in contracts The 
difficulties of the undertaking The line described Blisworth Cutting 
Primrose Hill Tunnel Kilsby Tunnel Its construction described- -The 
cost of the railway greatly increased Failure of contractors Magnitude 
of the works The railway navvies 301-324 


Projection of new lines Dutton Viaduct on the Grand Junction The Man- 
chester and Leeds Incident in Committee Summit Tunnel, Little- 
borough Magnitude of the work - - The Midland Railway - - The works 
compared with the Simplon road Slip near Ambcrgate Bull Bridge 
The York and North Midland The Scarborough branch George 
Stephenson on estimates Stephenson on his surveys --His quick obser- 
vation His extensive labours - - Travelling and correspondence - - Life at 
Alton Grange - - Stephenson's London office Journeys to Belgium 
Interviews with the King --Public openings of English railways 
Stephenson's assistants-- Results of travelling by rail .. .. 325-355 

CONTENTS. . xix 


George Stephenson's views on railways and coal- traffic -- Leases the Claycross 
estate, and sinks for coal Removes to Tapton House - - British Associa- 
tion at Newcastle Appears at Mechanics' Institutes - - Speech at Leeds - 
His self-acting brake His views of railway speed - - Theory of " undu- 
lating lines " Stephenson's conduct towards the Chester and Birkenhead 
Company - - Atmospheric railways projected -- Stephenson opposes the prin- 
ciple of working The railway mania Stephenson tries to check it in 
vain Parliament and the mania Stephenson's letter to Sir Robert Peel 
George Hudson, the Railway King ; his fall Stephenson again visits 
Belgium Interviews with King Leopold Journey into Spain 

Page 356-393 


Robert Stephenson's career His extensive employment as Parliamentary 
engineer - - His rival, Brunei - - The Great Western Railway Width of 
gauge - - Robert Stephenson's caution as to investments - - The Newcastle 
and Berwick Railway Contest in Parliament George Stephenson's inter- 
view with Lord Ho wick The Royal Border Bridge, Berwick Progress 
of iron-bridge building Robert Stephenson constructs the High Level 
Bridge, Newcastle Pile-driving by steam Merits of the structure - 
The through railway to Scotland completed 394-415 


George Stephenson surveys a line from Chester to Holyhead - - Robert Stephen- 
son afterwards appointed engineer The railway works under Penmaen 
Mawr - - The crossing of the Menai Strait - - Various plans proposed A 
tubular beam determined on Strength of wrought-iron tubes - - Mr. 
\Yilliani Fairbairn consulted His experiments Professor Hodgkinson 
Chains proposed, and eventually discarded The bridge works- -The Con- 
way Bridge Britannia Bridge described Floating of the tubes Robert 
Stephenson's great anxiety Raising the tubes The hydraulic press 
bursts The works completed Merits of the Britannia Bridge 416-440 


George Stephenson's life at Tapton - - Experiments in horticulture His 
farming operations Affection for ani mals-- Bee-keeping -- Reading and 
conversation - - Rencontre with Lord Denman - - Hospitality at Tapton - 
His microscope -- A "crowdie night" Visits to London - -Visits Sir 
Robert Peel at Drayton Manor His conversation Encounter with Dr. 
Buckland - - Coal formed by the sun's light Opening of the Trent Valley 
line, and great railway celebration Eulogy of the railway system 
Meeting with Emerson - - Illness, death, and funeral - - Statues of George 
Stephenson - - Robert Stephenson's gradual retirement from the profession 

- His tubular bridges in Egypt and Canada Acts as railway arbitrator 

- Helps to launch the Great Eastern Enters the House of Commons as 
member for Whitby - - His foreign honours - - Illness, death, and funeral 



(Ml APT Ell XXI. 

( 'huraet eristics of the Slepheiis<>ns - lleMime i.f < reorge Sir) .hen.-i>n's history 
His patience a lid perseverai in His t Imn m-lnicss and honesty - His hall h 

for the locomotiv) -His manual dexterity - - 1 )<] Hutment towards his work- 

peo|'li His p'lieroMty Compared with .lanies \\'att Serial mlliieiin-s 

d' the locoinotm llal'ils of obserVatidD 1 1 is o>n versa t i ma I pnuci's 

A late learner 1 1 is -<! ness nl' heart - IJnliert Ste|iheiisMii's kindliness <>f 
dis|M .sitiou - - His affectioD lin- liis lather -- His manners -- His generosity - 
Tin- Civil Ki mil leers' Institute George Stephenson OD ]mlitirs A'ie\\s.n 
Free-trade I!<.l>ert a " rmteetii-nist" -Services rendered ti civili/atinn 
by the Stephensons I'a^e -Ji i;. 1 s-j 


Narrative of (Jeorge Stephenson's Inventions and Improvements in connec- 
tion with the Locomotive Engine and Kail ways. By his Sun, Ilnl.iert 
Stephenson 485-4!" 1 , 

The Steam-blast in the Locomotive, and the Merits of the several Claimants 
to the Invention discussed ; including Eobert Stephenson's Remarks 
thereon 497-504 

INDEX .. .... .. 505-512 



to face Title Page, 
to face page 301. 

High Level 

Bridge, Newcastle, 

to face 1 

Map of Newcastle District . . . . 2 

Flange-rail 7 

Tyne Coal-staith 11 

Wylam 13 

High Street House, Wylam .. .. 15 

Newburn 23 

Stephenson's Cottage, Willington 

Quay 37 

Stephenson's Signature 39 

West Moor Colliery 44 

Killingworth High Pit . . . . 55 
Glebe Farm-house, Ben ton .. .. 56 
Rutter's School-house, Long Ben- 
ton 60 

Brace's School, Newcastle .. .. 62 
Stephenson's Cottage, West Moor 67 

Sim-dial, Killingworth 70 

Colliers' Cottages, Long Benton . . 72 
Cugnot's Steam Carriage . . . . 75 
Murdock's Model Locomotive .. 77s 
Trevithick's Tram Engine . . . . 83 

The Wylam Engine 92 

Spur Gear . . 97 

Pit-head, West Moor 106 

Davy's and Stephenson's Safety 

Lamps 117 

Literary and Philosophical Insti- 
tute, Newcastle 119 

Half-lap Joint 132 

Old Killingworth Locomotive . . 135 

West Moor Colliery, Killingworth 148 
Map of Stockton and Darlington 

Railway 149 

Opening of Stockton and Darling- 
ton Railway 168 

The First Railway Coach . . . . 171 

No. I. Engine at Darlington . . 175 
Map of Liverpool and Manchester 

Railway 184-5 

Surveying on Chat Moss . . . . 200 

.. 232 
.. 233 

.. 238 

.. 248 

Olive Mount Cutting 

Sankey Viaduct 

Baiting Place at Sankey 
Robert Stephenson's Cottage 

Santa Anna 

The "Rocket" 

Locomotive Competition at Rain- 
hill .. .. 269 

Railway versus Road 275 

Map of Leicester and Swannington 

Railway 295 

Alton Grange 300 

Map of London and Birmingham 

Railway .. .. .. ..312 

Blisw..rtli Cutting .. .. ..313 

Shafts, Kilsby Tunnel . . . . 316 

KiLsby Tunnel, North End .. ..324 

Button Viaduct . . 326 

West Entrance, Littleborough 

Tunnel.. .. .... 330 

Map of Midland Railway .. .. 332 

Landslip, Ambergate 334 

Bull Bridge .. .. .. 335 

Tapton House 356 

Lime Works, Ambergate . . . . 359 
Newcastle from High Level Bridge 394 
Royal Border Bridge, Berwick . . 406 
Elevation and Plan of Arch, High 

Level Bridge 414 

Railway at Penniaen Mawr .. .. 418 

Map of Menai Strait 421 

Construction of Britannia Tube on 

Staging .. .. -. ..431 

Conway Bridge . . 433 

Britannia Bridge 439 

Floating First Tube, Conway Bridge 440 
View in Tapton Grounds .. ..441 
Foot-path to Tapton House . . . . 448 
Trinity Church, Chesterfield . . 457 
Stephenson Memorial Schools, 








[ Y R. P. Leiicli, after his original drawing.] 






IN no quarter of England have greater changes been 
wrought by the successive advances made in the prac- 
tical science of engineering than in the extensive colliery 
districts of the North, of which Newcastle-upon-Tyne 
is the centre and the capital. 

In ancient times the Romans planted a colony at 
Newcastle, bridging the Tyne by the Pons JElii near 
the site of the present low-level bridge shown in the 
prefixed engraving, and erecting a strong fortification 
above it on the high ground now occupied by the 
Central Eailway Station. North and north-west lay a 
wild and barren country, abounding in moors, moun- 
tains, and morasses, but occupied to a certain extent 
by fierce and barbarous tribes of Picts and Caledonians. 
To defend the young colony against the ravages of 
these dangerous neighbours, a strong wall w T as built 
by the Romans, extending from Wallsend on the north 
bank of the Tyne, a few miles below Newcastle, across 
the country to Burgh-upon-Sands on the shores of the 
Solway Frith. The remains of the wall are still to be 


traced in the less populous hill-districts of Northumber- 
land. In the neighbourhood of Newcastle they have 

O i/ 

been gradually effaced by the works of succeeding 


NnliTIIKKN ( '< L< )\ ISTS. 

HAP. I. 


> . 


1 1 \i Hi 


generations, though the " Wall send ' coal consumed in 
our household fires still serves to remind us of the great 


Roman work. 

A long period of obscurity followed the withdrawal 
of these colonists, during which Northumhria became 
planted by an entirely new race, principally Saxons 
from North Germany and Norsemen from Scandinavia, 
whose Eorls or Earls made Newcastle their principal 
seat. Then came the Normans, from whose New Castle, 
built some eight hundred years since, the town derived 
its present name. Tlie keep of this venerable structure, 
black with age and smoke, still stands entire at the 
northern end of the noble high-level bridge- -the 
utilitarian work of modern times thus confronting the 
warlike relic of the older civilisation. 

The nearness of Newcastle to the Scotch Border was 
a great hindrance to its security and progress in the 
middle ages of English history. Indeed, the district 
between it and Berwick continued to be ravaged by 
mosstroopers long after the union of the Crowns. The 
gentry lived in their strong Peel castles ; even the 
larger farm-houses were fortified ; and bloodhounds 
were trained for the purpose of tracking the cattle- 
reivers to their retreats in the hills. The Judges of 
Assize rode from ( Carlisle to Newcastle guarded by an 


escort armed to the teeth. A tribute called u dagger 
and protection money was annually paid by the Sheriff 
of Newcastle for the purpose of providing daggers and 
other weapons for the escort ; and, though the need of 
such protection has long since ceased, the tribute con- 
tinues to be paid in broad gold pieces of the time of 
Charles the First. 

Until about the middle of last century the roads 


across Northumberland were little better than horse- 
tracks, and not many years since the primitive agri- 
cultural cart with solid wooden wheels was almost 
as common in the western parts of the county as it 
is in Spain now. The track of the old Roman road 
continued to be the most practicable route between 
Newcastle and Carlisle, the traffic between the two 
towns having been carried along it upon pack-horses until 
a comparatively recent period. When Marshal Wade 
attempted to march westward in 1745, to intercept the 
Highland rebels on their way south, he was completely 
baffled by the state of the roads, which were imprac- 
ticable for wheeled vehicles. 1 After the rebellion had 
been put down, the Marshal proceeded to construct a 
military road to connect Newcastle with Carlisle. He 
closely followed the line of the Roman wall for thirty 
miles west of Newcastle, and overthrew what remained 
of that work for the purpose of obtaining materials for 
his new " agger." 

Since that time great changes have taken place on 
the Tyne. When w T ood for firing became scarce and 
dear, and the forests of the South of England were 
found inadequate to supply the increasing demand for 
fuel, attention was turned to the rich stores of coal 
lying underground in the neighbourhood of Newcastle 
and Durham. It then became an article of increasing 
export, and " seacoal ' fires gradually supplanted those 

1 See ' Lives of the Engineers,' vol. i., Memoir of John Metcalf. 

B 2 


CHAP. 1. 

of Wood. Hence nil old writer descril >ed NYwcastle as 

"the Kvc of the Xortli. mid tin 1 Hearth that wanneth 
the South parts of this kingdom with Fire." Fuel h;is 
become the staple Irade of the district. increasiiiLr from 

vear to year, until at length the coal raised from these 

northern mines amounts to the extraordinary quantity 
of upwards of sixteen millions of tons a year, of whieh 
not less than nine millions of tons are annually conveyed 

away hv sea. 

t/ t 

Newcastle has in the mean time spread in all directions 
far beyond its ancient boundaries. From a walled 
medieval town of monks and merchants, it has been 
converted into a busy centre of commerce and manu- 
factures inhabited by nearly a hundred thousand people. 
It is no longer a Border fortress a " shield and defence 
against the invasions and frequent insults of the Scots," 
as described in ancient charters- -but a busy centre of 
peaceful industry, and the outlet for a vast amount of 
steam-power, which is exported in the form of coal to 
all parts of the world. 

Newcastle is in many respects a town of singular 
and curious interest, especially in its older parts, which 
are full of crooked lanes and narrow streets, wynds, 
and chares, 1 formed by tall, antique houses, rising tier 
above tier along the steep northern bank of the Tyne, 
as the similarly precipitous streets of Gateshead crowd 
the opposite shore. A dense cloud of smoke constantly 
hangs over the place, almost obscuring the sun's light. 
North and south the atmosphere is similarly murky, 
and all over the coal region, which extends from the 
Coquet to the Tees, about fifty miles from north to 
south, the surface of the soil exhibits the signs of exten- 

1 In the Newcastle dialect, a chare 
is a narrow street or lane. At the 
local assizes s>mr yt.ars since, one of 
the witnesses in a criminal trial swore 
that " lie s<u>' tln'<< a/' a <-<mtt out of 
the foot of a chare." r l he judge cau- 

tioned the jury not to pay any regard 
to the man's evidence, as he must he 
insane. A little explanation by the 
foreman, however, satisfied his lord- 
ship that the original statement \\a* 



sive underground workings. In every direction are to be 
seen swollen heaps of ashes and refuse, coals and slag, the 
rubbish of old abandoned pits, and the pumping-engines 
and machinery of new. As you pass through the country 
at night, the earth looks as if it were bursting with fire 
at many points ; the blaze of coke-ovens, iron-furnaces, 
and coal-heaps reddening the sky to such a distance that 
the horizon seems to be a glowing belt of fire. 

From the necessity which early existed for facilitating 
the transport of coals from the pits to the shipping 
places, it is easy to understand how the railway and 
the locomotive should have first found their home in 
the north. At an early period the coal was carried to 
the boats in panniers, or in sacks upon horses' backs. 
Then carts were used, to facilitate the progress of which 
tramways of flag-stone were laid down. This led to the 
enlargement of the vehicle, which became known as a 
waggon, and was mounted on four wheels instead of 
two. A local writer about the middle of the seventeenth 
century says, " Many thousand people are engaged in 
this trade of coals ; many live by working of them in 
the pits ; and many live by conveying them in waggons 
and w^ains to the river Tvne." 1 


Still further to facilitate the haulage of the waggons, 
pieces of planking were laid parallel upon wooden 
sleepers, or imbedded in the ordinary track, by which 
friction was still further diminished. It is said that 
these wooden rails were first employed by one Mr. 
Beaumont, 2 about the year 1630 ; and on a road thus 

1 ' Chorographia ; or, a Survey 
of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.' Newcastle, 

2 " Some South gentlemen have, 
upon great hopes of benefit, come into 
this country to hazard their monies in 
coal-pits. Mr. Beaumont, a gentle- 
man of great Ingenuity and rare Parts, 
adventured into our mines, with his 
thirty thousand Pounds, who brought 
with him many rare Engines, not 

known then in these Parts; as, the 
Art to bore with iron Rods, to try the 
Deepness and Thickness of the Coal ; 
rare Engines to draw the water out of 
the Pits ; waggons, with one horse, 
to carry the coals from the Pits to the 
Stathes on the River, &c. Within a 
few Years, he consumed all his Money, 
and rode Home upon his li</ht Horse." 
Harleian MS. vol. iii. 269. 

KAKLY Tl;.\MI!<>Al>S. CHAP. I. 

laid, a single IKTSC \\-;is capable of drawing ;i 

loaded wairpMi from tin- coal-pit to tin- shipping staith. 

Rn^vr Xortli, in IU7I5, found tin- practice had lircoine 

extensively adopted, ;md lie speak* of the large sum 

then paid for way-leaves, ihat is, the permission granted 

by the owners of l;mds lyiii^- between tlic cord-pit ;md 

tlic river-side to lay down a tramway for the purpose 

of connecting the one with the other. A century later, 

Arthur Young observed that not only had these roads 

become greatly multiplied, hut formidable works had 

been constructed to carry them along upon the same 

level. " The cord-waggon roads from the pits to the 

water/' he says, " are great works, carried over all sort- 

of inequalities of ground, so far as the distance of nine 

or ten miles. The tracks of the wheels are marked with 

pieces of wood let into the road for the wheels of the 

waggons to run on, by which one horse is enabled to 

draw, and that with ease, fifty or sixty bushels of coals." L 

Saint-Fond, the French traveller, who visited Newcastle 

in 1791, spoke of the colliery waggon-ways in the 

neighbourhood as superior to anything of the kind he 

had seen. He described the wooden rails as formed 

with a rounded upper surface, like a projecting mould- 

ing, and the waggon wheels as being " made of cast-iron, 

and hollowed in the manner of a metal pulley," that they 

might fit the rounded surface of the rails. The economy 

with which the coal was thus hauled to the shipping 

places was urged by him as an inducement to his own 

countrymen to adopt a similar method of transit. 2 

Similar waggon-roads were early laid clown in the 
coal districts of Wales, Cumberland, and Scotland. At 
the time of the Scotch rebellion, in 1745, a tramroad 
existed between the Tranent coal-pits and the small 
harbour of Cockenzie in East Lothian ; and a portion 

1 ' Six Months' Tour,' vol. iii. 9. 

2 ' Travels in England, Scotland, and the Hebrides,' vol. i. 142. 


of the line was selected by General Cope as a position 
for his cannon at the battle of Prestonpans, 

In these rude wooden tracks we find the germ of the 
modern railroad. Improvements were gradually made 
in them. Thus, at some collieries, thin plates of iron 
were nailed upon their upper surface, for the purpose of 
protecting the parts most exposed to friction. Cast-iron 
rails were also tried, the wooden rails having been found 
liable to rot. The first iron rails are supposed to have 
been laid down at Whitehaven as early as 1738. This 
cast-iron, road was denominated a " plate-way," from the 
plate-like form in which the rails were cast. In 1767, 
as appears from the books of the Coalbrookdale Iron 
Works, in Shropshire, five or six tons of rails were cast, 
as an experiment, 011 the suggestion of Mr. Reynolds, 
one of the partners ; and they were shortly after laid 
down to form a road. 

In 1770, a cast-iron tramway, nailed to wooden 
sleepers, was laid down at the Duke of Norfolk's col- 
liery near Sheffield. The person who designed and 
constructed this coal line was Mr. John Curr, whose 
son has erroneously claimed for him the invention of 


the cast-iron railway. He certainly adopted it early, 
and thereby met the fate of men before their age ; 
for his plan was opposed by the 
labouring people of the colliery, 
who got up a riot in which they tore 
up the road and burnt the coal-staith, 
whilst Mr. Curr fled into a neigh- 
bouring wood for concealment, and 
lay there perdu for three days and 
nights, to escape the fury of the 
populace. 1 The plates of these 
early tramways had a ledge cast 
011 their edo;e to c;uide the wheel alone* the road, after 

C_7 O <ZJ 

the manner shown in the annexed cut. 

1 ' Railway Locomotion and Steam Navigation, their Principles and Practice.' 
By John Curr. London, 1847. 


In ITsn. Mi'. William Jessop constructed a railway a1 
Loughborough, in Leicestershire, and there introduced 
tlir east-iron edev-rail. with Ham-lies east upon the tire 

<>(' tin- waererou-wheels to keep them on the track, instea3 

' i ' 

of having the margin or llaneh c;ist upon tlic r;iil itself; 

, ' i 

and this plan was shortly after adopted in oilier plaees. 
hi 1SOO, Mr. "Benjamin Outram, of Little Katmi, in 
Derbyshire (father of the distinguished General Outram), 
used stone props instead of timber for supporting the 
ends or joinings of the rails. Tims the use of railroads, 
in various forms, gradually extended, until they became 
generally adopted in the mining districts. 

Such was the growth of the railway, which, it will 
be observed, originated in necessity, and was modi- 
fied according to experience ; progress in this, as in 
all departments of mechanics, having been effected by 
the exertions of many men, one generation entering 
upon the labours of that which preceded it, and carry- 
ing them onward to farther stages of improvement. 
We shall afterwards find that the invention of the 
locomotive was made by like successive steps. It was 
not the invention of one man, but of a succession of 
men, each working a^ the proper hour, and according to 
the needs of that hour ; one inventor interpreting only 
the first word of the problem which his successors were 
to solve after long and laborious efforts and experiments. 
" The locomotive is not the invention of one man," said 
Robert Stephenson at Newcastle, " but of a nation of 
mechanical engineers." The same circumstances which 
led to the rapid extension of railways in the coal districts 
of the north, tended to direct the attention of the mining 
engineers to the early development of the powers of the 
steam-engine as a useful instrument of motive power. 
The necessity which existed for a more effective method 


of hauling the coals from the pits to the shipping places, 
was constantly present to many minds ; and the daily 
pursuits of a large class of mechanics occupied in the 
management of steam power, by which the coal was 


raised from the pits, and the mines were pumped clear 
of water, had the effect of directing their attention to 
the same agency as the best means of accomplishing 
that object. 

Among the upper-ground workmen employed at 
the coal-pits, the principal are the firemen, enginemen, 
and brakesmen, who fire and work the engines, and 
superintend the machinery by means of which the 
collieries are worked. Previous to the introduction of 
the steam-engine the usual machine employed for the 
purpose was what is called a " gin." The gin consists 
of a large drum placed horizontally, round which ropes 
attached to buckets and corves are wound, which are 
thus drawn up or sent down the shafts by a horse 
travelling in a circular track or " gin race." This 
method was employed for drawing up both coals and 
water, and it is still used for the same purpose in small 
collieries ; but where the quantity of water to be raised 
is great, pumps worked by steam power are called 
into requisition. 

Newcomen's atmospheric engine was first made use of 
to work the pumps ; and it continued to be so employed 
long after the more powerful and economical con- 
densing engine of Watt had been invented. In the 
Newcomeii or " fire engine," as it was called, the power 
is produced by the pressure of the atmosphere forcing 
down the piston in the cylinder, on a vacuum being 
produced within it by condensation of the contained 
steam by means of cold-water injection. The piston-rod 
is attached to one end of a lever, whilst the pump-rod 
works in connexion with the other,- -the hydraulic 
action employed to raise the water being exactly similar 
to that of a common sucking-pump. 

The working of a Newcomeii engine is a clumsy and 
apparently a very painful process, accompanied by an 
extraordinary amount of wheezing, sighing, creaking, 
and bumping. When the pump descends, there is heard 

L<> Till-; 1'ITMKN. CHAP. I. 

a plunge, ;i heavy sigh, and ;i loud lniin]: then. :is it 
rises, and the sucker lupins to net, there is heard ;i 
creak. ;i wheeze, another bump, and then a strong rush of 

water as it is lifted and |.<mvd out. \Yhere engines <>f 
a more powerful and impro\ ed description arc used, the 
quantity of water raisccl is enormous as much as a 
million and a lialf irallons in tlir twenty-four hour-. 


Tlie pitmen, who work out the coal l>elo\v ground, or 
" tlie lads lielaw," as they call themselves, are a peculiar 
class, quite distinct i'rom tlie workmen employed on the 
surface. They are a people with peculiar habits, man- 
ners, and character, as much so as fishermen and sailors, 
to whom, indeed, they are supposed, perhaps from the 
dangerous nature of their calling, to bear a considerable 
resemblance. Some forty or fifty years since they were 
a very much rougher and worse-educated class than 
they are now ; hard workers, but very wild and 1111- 

/ t/ 

couth ; much given to " steeks," or strikes ; and dis- 
tinguished, iri their hours of leisure and on pay-nights, 
for their love of cock-fighting, dog-fighting, hard drink- 
ing, and cuddy races. The pay-night was a fortnightly 
saturnalia, in which the pitman's character was fully 
brought out, especially when the " yel ' was good. 
Though earning much higher wages than the ordinary 
labouring population of the upper soil, the latter did 
not mix nor intermarry w T ith them ; so that they were 
left to form their own communities, and hence their 
marked peculiarities as a class. Indeed, a sort of 
traditional disrepute seems long to have clung to tin- 
pitmen, arising perhaps from the nature of their em- 
ployment, and from the circumstance that the colliers 
were amongst the last classes enfranchised in England, 
as they were certainly the last in Scotland, where they 
continued bondmen down to the end of last century. 


The last thirty years, however, have worked a great 
improvement in the moral condition of the pitmen ; the 
abolition of the twelve months' bond to the mine, and 

CHAP. 1. 



the substitution of a month's notice previous to leaving, 
having given them greater freedom and opportunity for 
obtaining employment ; and day-schools and Sunday- 
schools, together with the important influences of rail- 
ways, have brought them fully up to a level with the 
other classes of the labouring population. 

The coals, when raised from the pits, are emptied 
into the waggons placed alongside, from whence they 
are sent along the rails to the staiths erected by the 
river side, the waggons sometimes descending by their 
own gravity along inclined planes, the waggoner stand- 
ing behind to check the speed by means of a convoy or 
wooden brake bearing upon the rims of the wheels. 
Arrived at the staiths, the waggons are emptied at once 
into the ships waiting alongside for cargo. Any one 
who has sailed down the Tyne from Newcastle Bridge 
cannot but have been struck with the appearance of the 
immense staiths, constructed of timber, which are erected 
at short distances from each other on both sides of the 


CO^L-STAITH ON THE TYNE. [By R. P. Leitch.] 

But a great deal of the coal shipped from the Tyne 
comes from above-bridge, where sea-going craft cannot 

1- Till- KEELMEN. CHAP. I. 

reach, and is limited down tin- river in "keels," in 
\\-liidi ilir eo;d> are sometimes piled up according t 
convenience when large, or, when tin- eo.-d is small <r 
lender, it is conveyed in lulis i<> prevent breakage. 
The-e keels are <f ,-i very ancienl model,- -perhaps lln 1 
oldest cxt.-int in KiiLrland : they are even s;iid to be ol' 


ill.- same build ;is those in which ihe Norsemen uavi- 
ir.-iird the Tvne centuries ago. The kei-l is n tubby, 
grimy-looking craft, rounded lore ;md ;d't, willi a single 
large square snil, wliidi tlie keel-bullies, ;is tlir r rvnc 
wjitcviiicii arc c;dlrd, in;in;iu't' with UTCM! dexterity; tlie 

< / 

vessel licin^' ,u'nid< i d l>y tlic ;iid of the " S\V;IJK.'/' or gTcat 
oar, which is HMM! as a kind of rudder at the stern of 
the vessel. These keelmen are an exceedingly hardy 
class of workmen, not by any means so quarrelsome as 
their designation of "bully* would imply- -the word 

t/ _L - 

liriiiLi* merely derived from the obsolete term " boolie," 
or beloved, an appellation still in familiar use amongst 
brother workers in the coal districts. One of the most 
curious sights upon the Tyne is the fleet of hundreds of 
these black-sailed, black-hulled keels, bringing down at 
each tide their black cargoes for the ships at anchor in 
the deep water at Shields and other parts of the river 
below Newcastle. 

These preliminary observations will perhaps be suffi- 
cient to explain the meaning of many of the occupations 
alluded to, and the phrases employed, in the course of 
the following narrative, some of which might otherwise 
have been comparatively unintelligible to the general 

WYLAM. [By K. K Ltitcb.] 




THE colliery village of Wylam is situated on the north 
bank of the Tyne, about eight miles west of Newcastle. 
The Newcastle and Carlisle railway runs along the 
opposite bank ; and the traveller by that line sees 
the usual signs of a colliery in the unsightly pumping- 
eiigines surrounded by heaps of ashes, coal-dust, and 
slag ; whilst a neighbouring iron-furnace in full blast 
throws out dense smoke and loud jets of steam by day 
and lurid flames at night. These works form the 
nucleus of the village, which is almost entirely occupied 
by coal-miners and iroii-furnacemen. The place is more 
remarkable for the amount of its population than for its 
cleanness or neatness as a village- -the houses, as in most 

1 \ VVYLAM. CHAP. I!. 

colliery villages, heing the properly of tin- owners or 
less 8, \\'lio cni|t|oy tin-in lor ilic temporary ])iirposc l 
accommodating tin- workpeople, against whose earnings 

tliriv is ;i weekly set-off of so jnilcli lor house and COals. 

Ahoui the cn<l of l;isi eenturv the estate of which 


\Vyl;iin forms part, helonged 1> Mr. Blackett, a gvn- 
tleinan of considerable eelehrity in coal-mining, then 
more generally known as lite proprietor of the; 'Globe' 


There is nothing to interest one in the village itself. 
But a few hundred yards from its eastern extremity 
stands a humble detached dwelling, which will be inter- 
esting to many as the birthplace of one of the most 
remarkable men of our times George Stephen son, the 
Railway Engineer. It is a common two-storied, red-tiled, 
rubble house, portioned off into four lal tourers' apart- 
ments. It is known by the name of High Street House, 
and was originally so called because it stands by tin- 
side of what used to be the old riding post road or 
street between Newcastle and Hexham, along which 
the post was carried on horseback within the memory 
of persons living. 

The lower room in the west end of this house was 
the home of the Stephenson family ; and there George 
Stephenson w r as born on the 9th of June, 1781. The 
apartment is now, what it was then, an ordinary 
labourer's dwelling,- -its walls are unplastered, its 
floor is of clay, and the bare rafters are exposed over- 

Robert Stephenson, or " Old Bob," as the neighbours 
familiarly called him, and his wife Mabel, were a respect- 
able couple, careful and hard-working. They belonged 
to the ancient and honourable family of Workers- -that 
extensive family which constitutes the backbone of our 
country's greatness, the common working people of 
England. A tradition is, indeed, preserved in the 
family, that old Robert Stephenson' s father and mother 




HIGH-STREET HOUSE, WTLAil. [By R. P. Leitch.] 

came across the Border from Scotland, on the loss of 
considerable property there. Miss Stephenson, daughter 
of Robert Stephenson's third son John, states that a suit 
was even commenced for the recovery of the property, 
but was dropped for want of means to prosecute it. Cer- 
tain it is, however, that Robert Stephenson's position 
throughout life was that of a humble workman. After 
marrying at Walbottle, a village situated between 
Wylam and Newcastle, he removed with his wife 
Mabel to Wylam, where he found employment as fire- 
man of the old pumping-engine at that colliery. 

Mabel Stephenson was one of the daughters of Robert 
Carr, a dyer at Ovingham. The Carrs were for seve- 
ral generations the owners of a house in that village 
adjoining the churchyard ; and the family tombstone 
may still be seen standing against the east end of the 
chancel of the parish church, underneath the centre 
lancet window ; as the tombstone of Thomas Bewick, the 


wood-engraver, occupies t he western u-ahle. The author, 
when engaged ill tracing the early history ol (leorgr 
Stephenson, casually entered into conversation one day 
with an old man neai 1 Dewley. a hamlet not fur from 
Walbottle. Mabel Stephenson, he said, had hern his 
mother's cousin; and all their "forbears' belonged to 


that neighbourhood. It appears that she was a Avoman 
of somewhat delicate constitution, and troubled occasion- 
ally, as her neighbours said, with "the vapours." But 
those who remembered her concurred in describing her 


as "a real canny body." Ami a woman of whom this 
is said by general consent in the Newcastle district may 
be pronounced a worthy person indeed ; for it is about 
the highest praise of a woman which Northumbrians 
can express. 

George Stephenson was the second of a family of six 
children. The family Bible of Robert and Mabel 
Stephenson, which seems to have come into their pos- 
session in November, 1790, contains the following 
record of the births of these children, evidently written 
by one hand and at one time :- 

" A Rechester of the children belonging Kobert and Mabel 
Stepheson - 

" Janies Stepheson Was Born March the 4 day 1779 
" George Stepheson Was Born June i) day 1781 
" Elender Stepheson Was Born April the 16 day 1784 
Robert Stepheson Was Born March the 10 day 1788 
John Stepheson Was Born November the 4 day 1789 
" Ann Stepheson Was Born July the 19 day 1792." l 

It does not appear that the birth of any of these 
children was registered in the parish books, the author 
having made an unsuccessful search in the registers of 
Ovinp'ham and Heddon-on-the-Wall to ascertain the 


1 Of the two daughters, Eleanor 
married Stephen Liddell, afterwards 
employed in the Locomotive Factory 
in Newcastle. Ann married John 
Nixon, with whom she emigrated to 

the United States ; she died at Pitts- 
burg, in 1860. John Stephenson was 
accidentally killed at the Locomotive 
Factory in January, 1831. 


fact. Though the village of Wylam is within the parish 
of Ovingham, High Street House stands exactly beyond 
its boundary and within that of Heddoii ; the churches 
of both parishes being several miles distant. 

Robert Stephen son, the father of this family, was a 
tall, gaunt man. A Wylam collier, who remembered 
him well, gave the following odd description of his per- 
sonal appearance :--" Greordie's fayther war like a peer 
o' deals nailed thegither, an' a bit o' flesh i' th' inside ; 
he war as queer as Dick's hatband - -went thrice~aboot, 
an' wudii't tie. His wife Mabel war a delicat' boddie, 
an' varry flighty. They war an honest family, but sair 
hadden doon i' th' world." Indeed the earnings of old 
Robert did not amount to more than twelve shillings a 
week ; and, as there were six children to maintain, 
the family, during their stay at Wylam, were in very 
straitened circumstances. The father's wages being 
barely sufficient, even with the most rigid economy, 
for the sustenance of the household, there was little to 
spare for clothing, and nothing for education, so none 
of the children were sent to school. 

Old Robert was a general favourite in the village, 
especially amongst the children, whom he was accus- 
tomed to draw about him whilst tending the engine-fire, 
and feast their young imaginations with tales of Sinbad 
the Sailor and Robinson Crusoe, besides others of his 
own invention; so that "Bob's engine-fire" came to be 
the most popular resort in the village. Another feature 
in his character, by which he was long remembered, was 
his affection for birds and animals ; and he had many 
tame favourites of both sorts, which were as fond of 
resorting to his engine-fire as the boys and girls them- 
selves. In the winter time he had usually a flock of 
tame robins about him ; and they would come hopping 
familiarly to his feet to pick up the crumbs which he 
had saved for them out of his humble dinner. At his 
cottage he was rarely without one or more tame black- 

VOL. in. c 

Till-; BCtt GEORGE. CHAP. II. 

birds. which llew about the house. oi 1 in and out ;M 
door. In summer time In- would go a-birdnesting with 
his chil.l I vi i ; ;n id one* day In- look his liitlr son <i< orge 
to see :i blaekhird's nes1 tor tin- lirsi time. Holding him 
up in liis arms, In- Id the wondering boy peep down, 
llm.iidi the brunches held aside lor the purpose, into a 
nest lull of young l>inls--a sidit which the boy never 

forgot. hut Used to speak of with delight 1o his intimate 
friends when he liiinsejf h;id Lrrown ;in old 111:111. 

The boy George led the ordinary life of work in LT- 
pi-ople's children. He played .about the doors; went 
birdnesting when he' could; and ran errands to the vil- 
lage. He was also an eager listener, with the other 
children, to his father's curious tales ; and he early im- 
bibed from him that affection for birds and animals 
which, continued throughout his life. In course of time 
lie was promoted to the office of carrying his father's 
dinner to him while at work, and it was on such occa- 
sions his great delight to see the robins fed. At home 
he helped to nurse, and that with a careful hand, his 
younger brothers and sisters. One of his duties was to 
see that the other children w^ere kept out of the way 
of the chaldron waggons, which were then dragged by 
horses along the wooden tramroad immediately in front 
of the cottage-door. This waggon-way was the first in 
the northern district on which the experiment of a loco- 
motive engine was tried. But at the time of which 
we speak, the locomotive had scarcely been dreamt 
of in England as a practicable working power ; horses 
only were used to haul the coal ; and one of the first 
sights with which the boy was familiar was the coal- 
waggons dragged by them along the wooden railway 
at Wylam. 

Thus eight years passed ; after which, the coal having 
been, worked out on the north side, the old engine, 
which had grown " dismal to look at/' as one of the 
workmen described it, was pulled down ; and then 


Robert, having obtained employment as a fireman at 
the Dewley Burn Colliery, removed with his family to 
that place. Dewley Burn, at this clay, consists of a few 
old-fashioned low-roofed cottages standing 1 on either side 

c_3 c_^ 

of a babbling little stream. They are connected by a 
rustic wooden bridge, which spans the rift in front of 
the doors. In the central one-roomed cottage of this 
group, on the right bank, Robert Stephensoii lived 
for a time with his family ; the pit at which he worked 
standing in the rear of the cottages. 

Young though he was, George was now of an age to 
be able to contribute something towards the family 
maintenance ; for in a poor man's house, every child is 
a burden until his little hands can be turned to profitable 
account. That the boy was shrewd and active, and 
possessed of a ready mother wit, will be evident enough 
from the following incident. One day his sister Nell 


went in to Newcastle to buy a bonnet ; and Geordie 
went with her " for company." At a draper's shop in 
the Bigg Market, Nell found a " chip ' quite to her 
mind, but on pricing it, alas ! it was found to be fifteen 
pence beyond her means. Girl-like, she had set her 
mind upon that bonnet, and no other would please 
her. She accordingly left the shop disappointed and 
very much dejected. But Geordie bravely said, " Never 
heed, Nell ; come wi' me, and I'll see if I camia win 
siller enough to buy the bonnet ; stand ye there, till 
I come back." Away ran the boy and disappeared 
amidst the throng of the market, leaving the girl to 
wait his return. Long and long she waited, until it 
grew dusk, and the market people had nearly all left. 
She had begun to despair, and fears crossed her mind 
that Geordie must have been run over and killed ; 
when at last up he came running, almost breathless. 
" I've gotten the siller for the bonnet, Nell ! ' ' cried he. 
" Eh, Geordie ! " she said, " but hoo hae ye gotten it ? ' 
" Hauddin the gentlemen's horses ! ' was the exultant 

c 2 

20 GEORGE EMPLOYED A.S \ IlKI.'h-l 1 .' 'V CHAP, II. 

rcjl\. Tin 1 hoiniet was Forthwith bought, and the two 

reiumed to I)ewle\ iii triumph. 

George's lir>i regular employment was of a very 

humble sort. A widow, named (I rare Ainslie, tlidi 

occupied the neighbouring farmhouse ol Dewley. Hn 

kept ;i number of COWS, :ind li;id tin- privilege of grazing 
them alom>- the wa-'L:'o]i-road. She netted ;i l.ov to 

i"" 1 ' V 

herd ihc cows, to keep them out of tin- way of the 
waggons, ;md prevent their straying 01- trespassing on 
the neighbours' " liberties ;" the boy's duty was also to 

h;ir tin 1 Crates at ni^ht after all the wagons had passed. 

O ' ' 

George petitioned lor this post, and, to his great joy, he 
was appointed, at the wage of twopence a day. 

It was light employment, and he had plenty of spare 
t hue on his hands, which he spent in birdnesting, making 
whistles out of reeds and scrannel straws, and erecting 
Lilliputian mills in the little water-streams that ran into 
i he Dewley bog. But his favourite amusement at this 
early age was erecting clay engines in conjunction with 
his chosen playmate, Bill Thirlwall. The place is still 
pointed out, "just aboon the cut-end," as the people of 
the hamlet describe it, where the future engineers made 
their first essays in modelling. The boys found the clay 
for their engines in the adjoining bog, and the hemlocks 
which grew about supplied them with imaginary steam- 
pipes. They even proceeded to make a miniature 
winding machine in connexion with their engine, and 
the apparatus was erected upon a bench in front of the 
Thirlwalls' cottage. Their corves were made out of 
hollowed corks ; their ropes were supplied by twine ; 
and a few bits of wood gleaned from the refuse of the 
carpenters' shop completed their materials. With this 
apparatus the boys made a show of sending the corves 
down the pit and drawing them up again, much to the 
marvel of the pitmen. But some mischievous person 
about the place seized the opportunity early one morning 
of smashing the fragile machinery, greatly to the sorrow 


of the young engineers. We may mention, in passing, 
that George's companion afterwards became a workman 
of repute, and creditably held the office of engineer 
at Shilbottle, near Alnwick, for a period of nearly 
thirty years. 

As Stephenson grew older and abler to work, he was 
set to lead the horses when ploughing, though scarce 
big enough to stride across the furrows ; and he used 
afterwards to say that he rode to his work in the morn- 


ings at an hour when most other children of his age 
were asleep in their beds. He was also employed to 
hoe turnips, and do similar farm-work, for which he was 
paid the advanced wage of fourpence a-day. But his 
highest ambition was to be taken on at the colliery 
where his father worked ; and he shortly joined his 
elder brother James there as a " corf-bitter," or " picker," 
to clear the coal of stones, bats, and dross. His wages 
were then advanced to sixpence a-day, and afterwards to 
eightpence when he w T as set to drive the gin-horse. 

Shortly after, he went to Black Callerton Colliery to 
drive the gin there ; and as that colliery lies about two 
miles across the fields from Dewley Burn, the boy walked 
that distance early in the morning to his work, returning 
home late in the evening. One of the old residents at 
Black Callerton, who remembered him at that time, 
described him to the author as " a grit growing lad, 
with bare legs an' feet ; ' adding that he was " very 
quick-witted and full of fun and tricks : indeed, there 
was nothing under the sun but he tried to imitate." He 
was usually foremost also in the sports and pastimes of 

Among his first strongly developed tastes was the 
love of birds and animals, which he inherited from his 
father. Blackbirds were his special favourites. The 
hedges between Dewley and Black Callerton were capital 
birdnesting places ; and there was not a ne-st there that 
he did not know of. When the young birds were old 


enough, he would hrniLr them home with him. I'm I 

them, and teach tln-m i<> Byaboul thecottage unconfined 

lv cag< s. On.- of his blackbirds became so tame, that, 

after living' :ilnl the doors nil dav. ;iml in ;ind out of 

* ' t 

the cottage, il would take up iis roosl upon the bed-head 
at nielli. And m'st singular ofall. the hint would di 
appear in the spring and siimnier months, when it wa- 
supposed to go into tin- \\-oods to paii' and rear its young, 
alter \vhieh it would reappear at the cottage, and resume 
its social hahits during the winter. Tins went on for 
sev-r;d years. George liad also a stock of tame rabbit-. 
for which he built a little house behind the cottage, and 
for many years he continued to pride himself upon .the 
superiority of his breed. 

After he had driven the gin for some time at Dewlev 

and Black Callerton, he was taken on as an assistant to 
his father in firing the engine at Dewlev. This was a 
-tep of promotion which he had anxiously desired; his 
only fear being lest he should be found too young for 
the work. Indeed, he used afterwards to relate how IM- 
was wont to hide himself when the owner of the collie r\ 
went round, lest he should be thought too little a boy to 
earn the w^ages paid him. Since he had modelled his 
clay engines in the bog, his young ambition was to be 
an engineman; and to be an assistant fireman was the 
first step towards this position. Great, therefore, was 
his joy when, at about fourteen years of atre, lie was 
appointed assistant fireman, at the wage of a shilling 



But the coal at Dewlev Burn beinc, 1 at lenirth worked 

J O 

out, the pit was ordered to be " laid in," and old Robert 
and his family were again under the necessity of shifting 
their home; for, to use the common phrase., they must 
" follow the wark. 

>\ T THE TYNE. [By R P. Leitch.] 



quitting their humble home at Dewley Burn, the 
Stephenson family removed to a place called Jolly's 
Close, a few miles to the south, close behind the village 
of Newburn, where another coal-mine belonging to the 
Duke of Northumberland, called " the Duke's Winnin," 
had recently been opened out. 

One of the old persons in the neighbourhood, who 
knew the family well, describes the dwelling in which 
they lived as a poor cottage of only one room, in which 
the father, mother, four sons, and two daughters lived 
and slept. It was crowded with three low-poled beds. 


Tlu 1 one apartment served for parlour, kitchen. sl< epinir- 
room, ;nid nil. 

Tin- ehildren of the Stcpliciison family were now 
LiTowinu- apaer. and sr\vral of them were old enough to 

he able to earn money a1 various. kinds of colliery work. 

.lames and (leni^e, the 1\vo eldest sons, worked as 

assistant-firemen ; and tlie younger boys worked as 
wheelers or piekers on tlie bank-tops. The two girls 
helped their mother with the household work. 

So far as weekly earnings went, the family were at 
this time pretty comfortable. Their united earnings 
amounted to from 35s. to 40s. a week, and they were 
enabled to command a fair share of the necessaries of 
life. But it will be remembered that in those da vs. 


from 1797 to 1802, it was much more difficult for the 
working classes to live than it is now. Money did 
not go nearly so far. The price of bread was exces- 
sive. Wheat, which for three years preceding 17 ( . ( ~> 
had averaged only 54s., advanced to 76s. a quarter ; 
and it continued to rise until, in December, 1800, it 
increased to 130s., and barley and oats in propor- 
tion. There was a great dearth of provisions, corn 
riots were of frequent occurrence, and the taxes on all 
articles of consumption were very heavy. The war 
with Napoleon was then raging ; derangements of 
trade were frequent, causing occasional suspensions of 
employment in all departments of industry, from the 
pressure of which working people are always the first 
to suffer. 

During this severe period George Stephenson con- 
tinued to live with his parents at Jolly's Close. Other 
workings of the coal were opened out in the neighbour- 
hood ; and to one of these he was removed as fireman 
on his own account. This was called the " Mid Mill 
Winnin," where he had for his mate a young man 
named Bill Coe ; and to these two was intrusted the 
working of the little engine put up at Mid Mill. They 


worked together there for about two years, by twelve- 
hour shifts, George firing the engine at the wage of a 
shilling a-day. 

He was now fifteen years old. His ambition was as 
yet limited to attaining the standing of a full workman, 
at a man's wages ; and with that view he endeavoured 
to attain such a knowledge of his engine as would 
eventually lead to his employment as an engineman, 
with its accompanying advantage of higher pay. He 
was a steady, sober, hardworking young man, but 
nothing more, in the estimation of his fellow-workmen. 

One of his favourite pastimes in by-hours was trying 
feats of strength with his companions. Although in 
frame he was not particularly robust, yet he was big 
and bony, and considered very strong for his age. His 
principal competitor was Robert Hawthorn, with whom 
he had frequent trials of muscular strength and dex- 
terity, such as lifting heavy weights, throwing the 
hammer, and putting the stone. At throwing the 
hammer George had no compeer ; but there was a 
knack in putting the stone which he could never 
acquire, and there Hawthorn beat him. At lifting 
heavy weights off the ground from between his feet, 
by means of a bar of iron passed through them- 
placing the bar against his knees as a fulcrum, and then 
straightening his spine and lifting them sheer up- 
Stephenson was very successful. On one occasion, 
they relate, he lifted as much as sixty stones weight in 
this way- -a striking indication of his strength of bone 
and muscle. 

When the pit at Mid Mill was closed, George and his 
companion Coe were sent to work another pumping- 
engine erected near Throckley Bridge, where they con- 
tinued for some months. It was while working at this 
place that his wages were raised to 12-s?. a week an 
event to him of great importance. On coming out of 
the foreman's office that Saturday evening on which he 


received tin- advance, In- announced tin- fart in Ins 
fellow-workmen, adding triumphantly, " I am im\\- n 
made iiiini I'm- life ! 

Tin- |it opened ;it \c\\liliril. Ill which old Robert 

Stephenson worked, proving ;i failure, it \v;is dnx-.j ; 
ami a m-\v pit was sunk at \Vatcr-m\v. nn a strip of 
land lying between tin- \V\lain wairgmi-way and the 
river Tyne. almiii half-a-mile west of NTewburn Church. 
A pumping-engine was erected thriv by JloU-rt Haw- 
thorn, the Duke's rnii-iinM-i' at \VaIlmitl.- ; and old 
Stephenson went to work it as fireman, his son G-eoriru 
a ling as the engineman or plugman. At that time lie 
was about seventeen years old a A' LTV youthful a^v at 
which to fill so responsible a post. He had thus aln-adv 
ii-nt ahead of his father in his station as a workman ; for 
the plugman holds a higher grade than the fireman. 
requiring more practical knowledge and skill, and 
usually receiving higher wages. 

George's duty as plugman was to watch the engine. 
to see that it kept well in work, and that the pump- 
were efficient in drawing the water. When the water- 
level in the pit was lowered, and the suction became 
incomplete through the exposure of the suction-holes, 
it was then his duty to proceed to the bottom of the 
shaft and plug the tube so that the pump should draw : 
hence the designation of " plugman." If a stoppage in 
the engine took place through any defect in it which 
he was incapable of remedying, then it was for him to 
call in the aid of the chief engim -er of the collierv to 
set the engine to rights. 

But from the time when George Stephenson was 
appointed fireman, and more particularly afterwards as 
engineman, he applied himself so assiduously and so 
successfully to the study of the engine and its gearing 

-taking the machine to pieces in his leisure hours for the 
purpose of cleaning and understanding its various parts 

-that he soon acquired a thorough practical knowledge 

of its construction and mode of working, and ver\ 

O ' 

rarely needed to call to his aid the engineer of the 
colliery. His engine became a sort of pet with him, 
and he was never wearied of watching and inspecting 
it with admiration. 

There is indeed a peculiar fascination about an engine 
to the person whose duty it is to watch and feed it. It 
is almost sublime in its untiring industry and quiet 
power : capable of performing the most gigantic work, 
yet so docile that a child's hand may guide it. Xo 
wonder, therefore, that the workman who is the daily 
companion of this life-like machine, and is constantly 
watching it with anxious care, at length comes to regard 
it with a degree of personal interest and regard. This 
daily contemplation of the steam-engine, and the sight 
of its steady action, is an education of itself to an in- 
genious and thoughtful man. And it is a remarkable 
fact, that nearly all that has been done for the improve- 
ment of this machine has been accomplished, not by 
philosophers and scientific men, but by labourers, me- 
chanics, and enginemen. It would appear as if this 
were one of the departments of practical science in 
which the higher powers of the human mind must bend 
to mechanical instinct. The steam-engine was but a 
mere toy until it was taken in hand by workmen. 
Savery was originally a working miner, Newcomen a 
blacksmith, and his partner Cawley a glazier. In the 
hands of Watt, the instrument-maker, who devoted 
almost a life to the study of the subject, the con- 
densing-engine acquired gigantic strength ; and George 
Stephenson, the colliery engiiieman, was certainly not 
the least of those who have assisted to bring the high- 
pressure engine to its present power. 

Although the progress made by our young mechanic 
was unusually rapid- -helped as he was by native 
shrewdness, quick perception, and assiduous application 

-he had not yet even begun his literary culture. He 


was eighteen years old lirl'mv IK- It ;irni to read; and, 


haying the charge of an engine which occupied his 

time to the extent <!' twelve hours every <lav, he had 

t/ * 

thus very lew leisure moments that he could call his 
own. lint the husiest man will iind them if he watch 
for tin-in : and it' he he careful in turning tliese mo- 
ments to useful account, lie- will prove them to he the 
very " ir<> Id-dust of time." as YOUHLC has so heautifully 


described tliem. 

Xot many of his fellow-workmen had learnt to read : 
but those who could do so were placed under frequent 
contribution by George and the other labourers at tl it- 
pit. It was one of their greatest treats to induce some 
one to read to them by the engine-fire, out of any book 
or stray newspaper which found its way into the vil- 
lage of Xewburn. Buonaparte was then overrunning 
Italy, and astounding Europe by his brilliant succession 
of victories ; and there was no more eager auditor of 
these exploits, when read from the newspaper accounts, 
than the young engine-man at the TVater-row Pit. 

There were also numerous stray bits of information 
and intelligence contained in these papers, which excited 
Stephenson's interest. One of these related to the 
Egyptian art of hatching birds' eggs by means of 
artificial heat. Curious about everything relating to 
birds, he determined to test the art by experiment. It 
was spring time, and he forthwith went a birdnesting 
in the adjoining woods and hedges, where there were 
few birds' nests of which he did not know. He brought 
a collection of eggs of all kinds into the engine-house, 
set them in flour in a warm place, covering the whole 
over with wool, and then waited the issue of his experi- 
ment. But though the heat was kept as steady as 
possible, and the eggs were carefully turned every 
twelve hours, they never hatched. The eggs chipped, 
and some of them exhibited well-aTOwn chicks ; but 


none of the birds came forth alive, and thus the experi- 


ment failed. The incident, however, serves to show 
that the inquiring mind of the youth was fairly at 

Another of his favourite occupations continued to 
be the modelling of clay engines. He not only made 
models of engines which he had seen, but he also tried 
to make models of others which were described to him. 
These attempts no doubt showed considerable improve- 
ment upon his first trials in the clay of Dewley 
Burn bog, when occupied there as a herd-boy. He was 
told, however, that all the wonderful engines of Watt 
and Boulton, about which he was so anxious to know, 
were to be found described in books, and that he must 
satisfy his curiosity by searching them for a complete 
description of the machines which he desired to model. 
But, alas ! Stephenson could not read ; he had not yet 
learnt even his letters. 

Thus he shortly found, when gazing wistfully in the 
direction of knowledge, that to advance further as a 
skilled workman, he must master this wonderful art of 
reading- -the key to so many other arts. Only thus 
could he gain an access to books, the depositories of 
the wisdom and experience of the past. Although a 
grown man and doing the work of a man, he was not 
ashamed to confess his ignorance, and go to school, big 
as he was, to learn his letters. Perhaps, too, he foresaw 
that, in laying out a little of his spare earnings for this 
purpose, he was investing money judiciously, and that, 
in every hour he spent at school, he was really working 
for better wages. He determined, therefore, to learn 
this useful art of reading, and to make a beginning a 
small beginning, it is true, but still a right one, and 
a pledge and assurance that he was in earnest in the 
work of self-culture. He desired thus to open for him- 
self a road into knowledge ; and no man can sincerely 
desire this but he will eventually succeed in finding it. 

His first schoolmaster was Robin Cowens, a poor 


teacher in the village ofWalbottle. Il- kept a niirht- 

i a 

>c|ioo|. which was attended \>y a few nf tin- colliers ;iii<l 

labourers' sons m tin- neighbourhood. George took 
lessons in spelling and reading three nights in the w< -ck. 

Tommy M !i>!_:TMVe. ihc hid AV!IO "sled oiii tlic engine 
;il ilic Water-row Pit. usually went \villi him to the 
evening lesson. K'obin ('owen's tt-jichiu^ 1 <-ost three- 
pence ;t week : ;nid though it was not very irood. yd 
George, hein^ hungry lor knowledge ;md eager to 
;ici|iiiiv it. soon Icunit to iv;id. Jlc ;dso pnidiscd " pot- 
luniks," ;md ;it tlic ;ILTC of nineteen he was proud to be 
;d>le to write his own name. 

A Scotch dominie, named Andrew Robertson, set up 
a night-school in the village of Newburn, in the winter 
of 17 ( .)!>. It was more convenient for George to attend 
this school, as it was nearer to his work, and not more 
than a tew minutes' walk from Jolly's Close. Besides, 
Andrew had the reputation of being a skilled arithmeti- 
cian ; and this was a branch of knowledge that Stephen- 
son was desirous of acquiring. He accordingly began 
raking lessons from him, paying fourpence a week. 
Robert Gray, the junior fireman at the Water-row Pit, 
began arithmetic at the same time ; and Gray afterwards 
told the author that George learnt " figuring ' so much 
faster than he did, that he could not make out how it 
" he took to figures so wonderful." Although 

the two started together from the same point, at the 
end of the winter George had mastered " reduction," 
while Robert Gray was still struggling with the diffi- 
culties of simple division. But George's secret was his 
perseverance. He worked out the sums in his bye- 
hours, improving every minute of his spare time by 
the engine -fire, and there solving the arithmetical 
problems set for him upon his slate by the master. In 
the evenings he took to Robertson the sums which he 
had thus " worked," and new ones were " set " for him 
to study out the following day. Thus his progress was 


rapid, and, with a willing heart and mind, he soon 
became well advanced in arithmetic. Indeed, Andrew 
Robertson became somewhat proud of his scholar ; and 
shortly afterwards, when the Water-row Pit was closed, 
and George removed to Black Callerton to work there, 
the poor schoolmaster, not having a very extensive con- 
nexion in Xewburn, went with his pupils, and set up 
his night-school at Black Callerton, where he continued 
his instruction to them. 

George still found time to attend to his favourite 
animals while working at the Water-row Pit. Like his 
father, he used to tempt the robin-redbreasts to hop and 
fly about him at the engine-fire, by the bait of bread- 
crumbs saved from his dinner. But his favourite animal 
was his dog so sagacious that he performed the office 
of a servant, in almost daily carrying his dinner to him 
at the pit. The tin containing the meal was suspended 
from the dog's neck, and, thus laden, he proudly walked 
the road from Jolly *s Close to Water-row Pit, quite 
through the village of Newburn. He turned neither to 
left nor right, nor minded for the time the barking of 
curs at his heels. But his course was not unattended 
with perils. One day the big strange dog of a passing 
butcher espied the engiiieman's messenger, ran after 
him, and fell upon him with the tin can about his neck. 
There was a terrible tussle and worrying between the 
dogs, which lasted for a brief while, and, shortly after, 
the dog's master, anxious for his dinner, saw his faithful 
servant approaching, bleeding but triumphant. The 
tin can was still round his neck, but the dinner had 
escaped in the struggle. Though George went without 
his dinner that day, when the circumstances of the 
combat were related to him by the villagers who had 
seen it, he was prouder of his dog than ever. 

It was while working at the Water-row Pit that Ste- 
phenson first learnt the art of brakeing an engine. This 
being one of the higher departments of colliery labour, 

:;-J LEARNS To III! A KM. CHAP. 111. 

and .miunirst tli l best ]aid, (leorvv was very anxious to 
learn it. A Hindi winding-engine having been put up 
for tin- purpose of drawing the eoals from llie pit, J>ill 
( 1 oe. his friend ;ui<l fellow-workman, was appointed the 
brakesman. He frequently allowed G-eor^e to try his 
hand ;il tin- brake, and insirue1e<l him ho\v to proceed. 
Coe was. however, opposed in this by several of the 
other workman -one of whom, a brakesman named 
William Locke, 1 went so far as to stop the workine; of 
the pit hecanse Steplienson Lad been called in to the 
brake. But one day as Mr. Charles Nixon, the manager 
of the pit, was observed approaching, Coe adopted an 
expedient which had the effect of putting a stop to 
the opposition. He called upon George Steplienson 
to "come into the brake-house, and take hold -of the 
machine." No sooner had he done this, than Locke, as 
usual, sat down, and the working of the pit was stopped. 
Locke, when requested by the manager to give an 
explanation, said that " young Steplienson couldn't 
brake, and, what was more, never would learn to brake, 
lie was so clumsy." Mr. Nixon, however, ordered 
Locke to go 011 with the work, which he did ; and 
Stephenson, after some further practice, acquired the 
art of brakeing. 

After working at the Water-row Pit and at other 
engines in the neighbourhood of Newburn, for about 
three years, George, with his companion Coe, w 7 ent to 
work at Black Callerton early in 1801. Though only 
twenty years of age, his employers thought so w^ell of 
him that they appointed him to the responsible office of 
brakesman at the Dolly Pit. For convenience' sake, 
he took lodgings at a small farmer's in the village, 
finding his own victuals, and paying so much a week 
for lodging and attendance. In the locality this was 
called " picklin in his awn poke iieuk." It not unfre- 

Father of Mr. Locke, M.P., the engineer. He afterwards removed to 
Barnsley, in Yorkshire. 


quently happens that the young workman about the 
collieries, when selecting a lodging, contrives to pitch 
his tent where the daughter of the house ultimately 
becomes his wife. This is often the real attraction that 
draws the youth from home, though a very different 
one may be pretended. 

George Stephenson's duties as brakesman may be 
briefly described. The work was somewhat mono- 
tonous, and consisted in superintending the working of 
the engine and machinery by means of which the coals 
were drawn out of the pit. Brakesmen are almost 
invariably selected from those who have had consider- 
able experience as engine-firemen, and borne a good 
character for steadiness, punctuality, watchfulness, and 
" mother wit." In George Stephenson's day the coals 
were drawn out of the pit in corves, or large baskets 
made of hazel rods. The corves were placed two 
together in a cage, between which and the pit-ropes 
there was usually from fifteen to twenty feet of chain. 
The approach of the corves towards the pit mouth was 
signalled by a bell, brought into action by a piece of 
mechanism worked from the shaft of the engine. When 
the bell sounded, the brakesman checked the speed, by 
taking hold of the hand-gear connected with the steam- 
valves, which were so arranged that by their means he 
could regulate the speed of the engine, and stop or set 
it in motion when required. Connected with the fly- 
wheel was a powerful wooden brake, acting by pressure 
against its rim, something like the brake of a railway- 
carriage against its wheels. On catching sight of the 
chain attached to the ascending corve-cage, the brakes- 
man, by pressing his foot upon a foot-step near him, 
was enabled, with great precision, to stop the revolutions 
of the wheel, and arrest the ascent of the corves at the 
pit mouth, when they were forthwith landed on the 
" settle board." On the full corves being replaced by 
empty ones, it was then the duty of the brakesman to 
VOL. in. D 


reverse tin- engine, and send the curves down tin- pit to 

!>< ill lt'| airain. 

Tin- imniotMiiy of (Jeor"v Stephenson's occupation MS 
M brakesman was sumcwhat varied by the change which 
lie made, in In's turn, from the day to the night shift. 
His duty, on tin- latter occasions, consisted chiefly in 
sending men and materials into the mine, and in 
drawing other men and materials out. Most of the 
workmen enter the pit during the ni^ht shift, and leave 
it in the latter part of the day, whilst coal-drawing- is 
proceeding. The requirements of the work at night are 
such, that the brakesman has a good deal of spare time 
on lu's hands, which he is at liberty to employ in his 
own way. From, an early period, George was accus- 
tomed to employ those vacant night hours in working 
the sums set for him by Andrew Robertson upon 
his slate, practising writing in his copy-book, and 
mending the shoes of his fellow-workmen. His wages 
while working at the Dolly Pit amounted to from 
I/. 15-y. to 21. in the fortnight; but he gradually added 
to them as he became more expert at shoe-mending, and 
afterwards at shoe-making. Probably he was stimu- 
lated to take in hand this extra work by the attach- 
ment he had by this time formed for a young woman 
named Fanny Henderson, who officiated as servant in 
the small farmer's house in which he lodged. The 
personal attractions of Fanny, though these were con- 
siderable, were the least of her charms. Her temper 
w r as of the sweetest ; and those who knew her were 
accustomed to speak of the charming modesty of her 
demeanour, her kindness of disposition, and withal her 
sound good sense. 

Amongst his various mendings of old shoes at Cal- 
lerton, George was on one occasion favoured with the 
shoes of his sweetheart to sole. One can imagine the 
pleasure with which he would linger over such a piece 
of work, and the pride with which he would execute it. 


A friend of his, still living, relates that, after he had 
finished the shoes, he carried them about with him in 
his pocket on the Sunday afternoon, and that from time 
to time he would whip them out and hold them up, ex- 
claiming, " what a capital joh he had made of them !" 
Other lovers have carried ahout with them a lock of 
their fair one's hair, a glove, or a handkerchief; hut 
none could have been prouder of their cherished love- 
token than was George Stephenson of his Fanny's shoes 
which he had just soled, and of which he had made 
such a " capital job." 

Out of his earnings by shoe-mending at Callerton, 
George contrived to save his first guinea. The first 
guinea saved by a working man is no trivial thing. If, 
as in Stephenson's case, it has been the result of prudent 
self-denial, of extra labour at bye-hours, and of the honest 
resolution to save and economise for worthy purposes, 
the first guinea saved is an earnest of better things. 
When Stephenson had saved this guinea he was not a 
little elated at the achievement, and expressed the opinion 
to a friend, who many years after reminded him of it, 
that he was " now a rich man." 

Not long after he began to work at Black Callerton 
as brakesman, he had a quarrel with a pitman named 
Ned Nelson, a roistering bully, who was the terror of 
the village. Nelson was a great fighter ; and it was 
therefore considered dangerous to quarrel with him. 
Stephenson w^as so unfortunate as not to be able to 
please this pitman by the way in which he drew him 
out of the pit ; and Nelson swore at him grossly because 
of the alleged clumsiness of his brakeing. George de- 
fended himself, and appealed to the testimony of the 
other workmen. But Nelson had not been accustomed 
to George's style of self-assertion ; and, after a great 
deal of abuse, he threatened to kick the brakesman, who 
defied him to do so. Nelson ended by challenging 
Stephenson to a pitched battle ; and the latter accepted 

i) 2 


the challenge, when a dav was fixed <>n winch the li 


was i come off. 

(Ireat was tin- cxcitcim Mil ;d IJIack Callerton when 

it was known that (ieorp> Stephenson had accepted 

Nelson's challenLiv. Everybody said he would he killed. 


The villagers. the young nn'ii. ;iiid especially the hoys 
of the place, with whom ( ieorge was a great favourite, 
all wished tlial lie might henl Nelson, hut they scarcely 
dared to say so. They came ahoiil him while he was al 
work in the engine-house 10 imjnire if it was really true 
that he was "groin to fiirht Nelson?' " Ay ; never 


tear lor me ; I'll fi^ht him.' And fiirht him he did. 

o o 

For some days previous to the appointed day of battle, 
Nelson went entirely off work for the purpose of keep- 
ing himself fresh and strong 1 , whereas Stephenson went 
on doing his daily work as usual, and appeared not in 
the least disconcerted by the prospect of the affair. So, 
on the evening appointed, after George had done his 
day's labour, he went into the Dolly Pit Field, where 
his already exulting rival was ready to meet him. 
George stripped, and " went in ' like a practised pugi- 
list- -though it was his first and last fight. After a few 
rounds, George's wiry muscles and practised strength 
enabled him severely to punish his adversary, and to 
secure an easy victory. 

This circumstance is related in illustration of Stephen- 
son's personal pluck and courage ; and it was thoroughly 
characteristic of the man. He was no pugilist, and the 
very reverse of quarrelsome. But he would not be put 
down by the bully of the colliery, and he fought him. 
There his pugilism ended ; they afterwards shook hands, 
and continued good friends. In after life, Stephenson' s 
mettle was often as hardly tried, though in a different 
way ; and he did not fail to exhibit the same resolute 
courage in contending with the bullies of the railway 
world, as he showed in his encounter with Ned Nelson, 
the fighting pitman of Callerton. 

STEPHEN SON'S CO A W1LLIN \. [By R. P. Leitch ] 



GEORGE STEPHEXSON had now acquired the character 
of an expert workman. He was diligent and observant 
while at work, and sober and studious when the day's 
work was over. His friend Coe described him to the 
author as " a standing example of manly character." 
Ou pay-Saturday afternoons, when the pitmen held 
their fortnightly holiday, occupying themselves chiefly 
in cock-fighting and clog-fighting in the adjoining fields, 
followed by adjournments to the " yell-house," George 
was accustomed to take his engine to pieces, for the 
purpose of obtaining " insight," and he cleaned all the 
parts and put the machine in thorough working order 
before leaving her. His amusements continued to be 
principally of the athletic kind ; and he found few that 


could lir;it him ;it lifting heavy wciirhts. leaping, and 

t lin >wniir i li (> hammer, 

In tin- evenings In 1 improved himseli m the arts <>1 

ivadinir ;uid \\-riliii-', ;ind occasionally took :i lni'ii ;il 

modelling. It was at ( 1 allerion. his son Robert in- 

i* r 

formed us. that In- U-irah to try his liand at original 
invention; and tor sonic time he applied Ins attention 
to a machine of the nature of an engine-brake, which 
revei'M-d itself 1 >y its own action. I>ut nothing came 
of the contrivance, and it was eventually thrown aside 
as useless. Yet not altogether so; for even the highe-t 
skill must undergo the inevitable discipline of ex- 
periment, and submit to the wholesome correction of 
occasional failure. 

After working at Callerton for about two years, In- 
received an offer to take charge of the engine on 
Wellington Ballast Hill at an advanced wage. He 
determined to accept it, and at the same time to marry 
Fanny Henderson, and begin housekeeping on his own 
account. Though he was only twenty-one years old, he 
had contrived, by thrift, steadiness, and industry, to 
save as much money as enabled him to take a cottage - 
dwelling at Willington Quay, and furnish it in a 
humble but comfortable style for the reception of his 
young bride. 

Willington Quay lies on the north bank of the Tyne, 
about six miles below Newcastle. It consists of a line 
of houses straggling along the river side; and high 
behind it towers up the huge mound of ballast emptied 
out of the ships which resort to the quay for their car- 
goes of coal for the London market. The ballast is- 
thrown out of the ships' holds into waggons laid along- 
side. When filled, a train of these is dragged to the 
summit of the Ballast Hill, where they are run out, and 
their contents emptied on to the monstrous accumu- 
lation of earth, chalk, and Thames mud already laid 
there, probably to form a puzzle for future antiquaries 


and geologists, when the origin of these immense hills 
along the Tyne has been forgotten. On the summit of 
the Willington Ballast Hill was a fixed engine, which 
drew the trains of laden waggons up the incline ; and 
of this engine George Stephenson acted as brakesman. 

The cottage in which he took up his abode was a 
small two-storied dwelling, standing a little back from 
the quay, with a bit of garden ground in front. 1 The 
Stephenson family occupied the upper room in the west 
end of the cottage. Close behind rose the Ballast Hill. 

When the cottage-dwelling had been made snug, and 
was ready for the young wife's reception, the marriage 
took place. It was celebrated in Newburn Church, on 
the 28th of November, 1802. George Stephenson's 
signature, as it stands in the register, is that of a person 
who seems to have just learnt to write. Yet it is the 
signature of a man, written slowly and deliberately, 
in strong round hand. With all his care, however, he 
had not been able to avoid a blotch ; the word " Ste- 
phenson" seems to have been brushed over before the 
ink was dry. 

After the ceremony, George and his newly-wedded 
wife proceeded to the house of old Eobert Stephenson 
and his wife Mabel at Jolly's Close. The old man was 
now becoming infirm, though he still worked as an 

1 The Stephenson Memorial Schools head of this chapter. A vignette of 
have since been erected on the site the Memorial Schools will be'found at 

of the old cottage at Willington Quay 
represented in the engraving at the 

the end of the volume. 


engine-fireman, and contrived with difficulty " to keep 

ln'.-s li.-;ul above water." \Vhm tin- visit li:xl been paid, 

tlir l.ri<l:il jtartv |iv|;iiv| tO -'f out for thrir ln-w IK. IDC 
;il \YilliiiLrton Ouav. Tlii-v wnil in :i style which was 

V. , , 

jiiitr common before travrlliiiLr by railway lunl U^n 
invented. Two farm horses were borrowed tn.m Mr. 
P>iirn. of tin- Ifrd HoiiM- F;irni. WoIsiiiLrhaiii, where 
A.nne I I''ii<lTs<>n. tin- bride's sister, lived :is servant. 

The two horses were -:n-li provided \\-ilh ;\ s;i!llc nnd 

:i ]iilli(in. ;in<l (JIM.I-^V li;i\in^ mounted one. Ins \\-itr 
seated herself behind him, holding on l>y her nrms minid 
his \v;u'st. Eoltrrt (Jr;iv ;uid Anne Huiidri-son in like 

manner mounted flic other liorse ; and in tin's wise tin- 
\\vddiiiii' party rode across the country, passing through 
tlie old streets of Newcastle, and then by Wallsend to 
Willin^'ton ( v )uay--a long ride of about fifteen miles. 

George Stephensoii's daily life at Willington was 
that of a steadv workman. By the manner, however, 

t/ V 

in which he continued to improve his spare hours in 
the evening, he was silently and surely pa A" ing the 
way for being something more than a manual labourer. 
He diligently set himself to study the principles of 
mechanics, and to master the laws by which his engine 
worked. For a workman, he was even at that time 
more than ordinarily speculative - - often taking up 
strange theories, and trying to sift out the truth that, 
was in them. While sitting by the side of his young 
wife in his cottage-dwelling in the winter evenings, he 
was usually occupied in studying mechanical subjects, 
or in modelling experimental machines. Amongst his 
various speculations while at Willington, he tried to 
discover a means of Perpetual Motion. Although he 
failed, as so many others had done before him, the very 
efforts he made tended to w r het his inventive faculties, and 
to call forth his dormant powers. He actually went so far 
as to construct the model of a machine for the purpose. 
It consisted of a wooden wheel, the periphery of which 


was furnished with glass tubes filled with quicksilver ; 
as the wheel rotated, the quicksilver poured itself down 
into the lower tubes, and thus a sort of self-acting 
motion was kept up in the apparatus, which, however, 
did not prove to be perpetual. Where he had first ob- 
tained the idea of this machine- -whether from conver- 
sation, or reading, or his own thoughts, is not known ; 
but his son Robert was of opinion that he had heard of 
an apparatus of the kind described in the " History of 
Inventions." As he had then no access to books, and 
indeed could barely read with ease, it is probable that 
he had been told of the invention, and set about testing 
its value according to his own methods. 

Much of his spare time continued to be occupied by 
labour more immediately profitable, regarded in a pecu- 
niary point of view. In the evenings, after "his day's 
labour at his engine, he would occasionally employ 
himself for a few hours in casting ballast out of the col- 
lier ships, by which means he was enabled to earn a 
few shillings extra weekly. Mr. William Fairbairn of 
Manchester has informed the author that while Stephen- 
son was employed at the Willington Ballast Hill he 
himself was working in the neighbourhood as an engine 
apprentice at the Percy Main Colliery. He was very 
fond of George, who was a fine, hearty fellow, besides 
being a capital workman. In the summer evenings 
young Fairbairn was accustomed to go down to Willing- 
ton to see his friend, and on such occasions he would fre- 
quently take charge of George's engine for a few hours to 
enable him to take a two or three hours' turn at heaving 
ballast out of the collier vessels. It is pleasant to think 
of the future President of the British Association thus 
helping the future Railway Engineer to earn a few 
extra shillings by overwork in the evenings, at a time 
when both occupied the rank but of humble working 
men in an obscure northern village. 

Mr. Fairbairn was also a frequent visitor at George's 


cottage "ii tin- Onav. where, though then- \vns n<> 

luxury, there \v:is comfort, cleanliness, and :i pervading 

spirit of industry. Kven al home George was Qever 
l<>r a moment idle. When there was no ballasl to heave 

out, IK- touk in shoes to mend; and from mending he 
proceeded to making them, ;is well as shoe-lasts, in 
which he was admitted to lie very expert. William 
( Y.e, who continued to live at Willin^toii in 1851, in- 
formed the author that he bought a pair of shoes from 
George Stephenson for 7*. ('/., and he remembered that 
they were a capital fit, and wore very well. 

But an accident occurred in Stephen son's household 
about this time, which had the effect of directing his in- 
dustry into a new and still more profitable channel. The 
cottage chimney took fire one day in his absence, when the 
alarmed neighbours, rushing in, threw quantities of water 
upon the flames; and some, in their zeal, even mounted the 
ridge of the house, and poured buckets of water down 
the chimney. The fire was soon put out, but the house 
was thoroughly soaked. When George came home he 
found the water running out of the door, everything in 
disorder, and his new furniture covered with soot. The 
eight-day clock, which hung against the wall- -one of 
the most highly-prized articles in the house- -was 
grievously injured by the steam with which the room 
had been filled. Its wheels were so clogged by the dust 
and soot, that it was brought to a complete stand-still. 
George was always ready to turn his hand to anything, 
and his ingenuity, never at fault, immediately set to 
work for the repair of the unfortunate clock. He was 
advised to send it to the clockmaker, but that would 
have cost money ; and he declared that he would repair 
it himself- -at least he would try. The clock was ac- 

cordingly taken to pieces and cleaned ; the tools which 
he had been accumulating for the purpose of construct- 
ing his Perpetual Motion machine, readily enabled 
him to do this ; and he succeeded so well that, shortly 




after, the neighbours sent him their clocks to clean, and 
he soon became one of the most famous clock-doctors in 
the neighbourhood. 

It was while living at Williiigton Quay that George 
Stephenson's only son was born, on the 16th of October, 
1803. 1 The child was from the first, as may well be 
imagined, a great favourite with his father, whose 
evening hours were made happier by his presence. 
George Stephenson's strong " philoprogenitiveness," as 
phrenologists call it, had in his boyhood expended itself 
on birds, and dogs, and rabbits, and even on the poor 
old gin-horses which he had driven at the Callerton Pit ; 
and now he found in his child a more genial object on 
which to expend the warmth of his affection. 

The christening of the boy took place in the school- 
house at Wallseiid, the old parish church being at the 
time in so dilapidated a condition from the " creeping ' 
or subsidence of the ground, consequent upon the exca- 
vation of the coal, that it was considered dangerous to 
enter it. On this occasion, Robert Gray and Anne 
Henderson, who had officiated as bridesman and brides- 
maid at the wedding, came over again to Willington, 
and stood as godfather and godmother to little Robert, 
as the child was named, after his grandfather. 

After working for several years as a brakesman 
at the Willington machine, George Stephenson was 
induced to leave his situation there for a similar one at 
the West Moor Colliery, Killingworth. It was not 
without considerable persuasion that he was induced to 
leave the Quay, as he knew that he should thereby give 

1 No register was made of Robert 
Stephenson's birth, and he himself 
was in doubt whether he was born in 
October, November, or December. 
For instance, a dinner was given to 
him by the contractors of the London 
and Birmingham Railway on the 16th 
November, 1839, that day being then 
supposed by his lather to have been his 

; birthday. When preparing the 'Life 
of George Stephenson,' Robert stated to 

; the author that the 16th of December 
was the correct day. But after the 
book had passed through four edi- 
tions he desired the date to be cor- 
rected to the 16th of October, which 
on the whole he thought the right elate, 
and it was so altered accordino-ly. 

! ! 



[ ' ] 

up the chance of earning extra money by casting ballast 
from the keels. At last, however, he consented, in the 
hope of making up the loss in some other way. The 
village of Killiiigworth lies about seven miles north of 
Newcastle, and is one of the best-known collieries in 
that neighbourhood. The workings of the coal are of 
vast extent, and give employment to a large number 
of workpeople. The place stands high, and commands 
an extensive view of the adjacent country ; it overlooks 
the valley of the Tyrie on the south, and the pinnacles 
of the Newcastle spires may be discerned in the dis- 
tance, when not ol >scured by the clouds of smoke which 
rise up from that hive of manufacturing industry. 

To this place George Stephenson first came as a 
brakesman in the year 1805. He had not been long- 
in his new place, ere his wife died (in 1806), shortly 
after giving birth to a daughter, who survived the 
mother only a few months. George deeply felt the loss 
of his wife, for they had been very happy together. 


Their lot had been sweetened by daily successful toil. 
The husband was sober and hard-working, and his wife 
made his hearth so bright and his home so snug, that 
no attraction could draw him from her side in the 
evening hours. But this domestic happiness was all to 
pass away ; and George felt as one that had thenceforth 
to tread the journey of life alone. It was a terrible blow 
to him, and he long lamented his bereavement. 

Shortly after this event, while his grief was still 
fresh, he received an invitation from some gentlemen 
concerned in large spinning works near Montrose in 
Scotland, to proceed thither and superintend the work- 
ing of one of Boulton and Watt's engines. He accepted 
the offer, and made arrangements to leave Killingworth 
for a time. 

Having left his boy in charge of his father and 
mother, still living at Jolly's Close, near Newburn, he 
set out upon his long journey to Scotland on foot, 
with his kit upon his back. It was while working at 
Montrose that he first gave proofs of that practical 
ability in contrivance for which he was afterwards so 
distinguished. It appears that the water required for 
the purposes of his engine, as well as for the use of the 
works, was pumped from a considerable depth, being 
supplied from the adjacent extensive sand strata. The 
pumps frequently got choked by the sand drawn in at 
the bottom of the well through the snore-holes, or 
apertures through which the water to be raised is 
admitted. The barrels soon became worn, and the 
bucket and clack leathers destroyed, so that it became 
necessary to devise a remedy ; and with this object the 
engine-man proceeded to adopt the following simple 
but original expedient. He had a wooden box or boot 
made, twelve feet high, which he placed in the sump or 
well, and into this he inserted the lower end of the 
pump. The result was, that the water flowed clear 
from the outer part of the well over into the boot, and 



was drawn up without any admixture of sand, and the 
difficulty was thus conquered. 1 

During- his short stay, being paid good wages, 
Strphriison contrived to save a sum of 28/., which he 
took back with him to Killingworth, after an absence 
of about a year. Longing to get back to his own kin- 
dred, his heart yearning for his son whom he had left 
behind, our engine-man took leave of his Montrose 
employers, and trudged back to Killingworth on foot 
as he had gone. He related to his friend Coe, on his 
return, that when on the borders of Northumberland, 
late one evening, footsore and wearied with his long 
day's journey, he knocked at a small farmer's cottage 
door, and requested shelter for the night. It was re- 
fused, and then he entreated that, being sore tired and 
unable to proceed any further, they would permit him 
to lie down in the outhouse, for that a little clean straw 
would serve him. The farmer's wife appeared at the 
door, looked at the traveller, then retiring with her 
husband, the two confabulated a little apart, and finally 
they invited Stephenson into the cottage. Always full 
of conversation and anecdote, he soon made himself at 
home in the farmer's family, and spent with them a few 
pleasant hours. He was hospitably entertained for the 
night, and when he left the cottage in the morning, he 
pressed them to make some charge for his lodging, but 
they " would not hear of such a thing." They asked 
him to remember them kindly, and if he ever came that 
way, to be sure and call again. Many years after, when 

1 This incident was related by Ro- 
bert Stephenson during a voyage to 
the north of Scotland in 1857, when 
off Montrose, on board his yacht Ti- 
tania ; and the reminiscence was im- 
mediately communicated to the author 
by the late Mr. William Kell of Gates- 
head, who was present, at Mr. Stephen- 
son's request, as being worthy of inser- 
tion in his father's biography. Mr. 
George Elliott, one of the most skilled 

coal- viewers in the North, was of the 
party, and expressed his admiration at 
the ready skill with which the diffi- 
culty had been overcome, the expe- 
dient of the boot being then unknown 
in the Northumberland and Durham 
mines. He acknowledged it to be 
" a wrinkle," adding that its applica- 
tion would, in several instances within 
his own knowledge, have been of great 
practical value. 


Stephenson had become a thriving man, he did not 
forget the humble pair who had thus succoured and 
entertained him on his way ; he sought their cottage 
again, when age had silvered their hair ; and when he 
left the aged couple, on that occasion, they may have 
been reminded of the old saying that we may sometimes 
" entertain angels unawares." 

Reaching home, Stephenson found that his father 
had met with a serious accident at the Blucher Pit, 
which had reduced him to great distress and poverty. 
While engaged in the inside of an engine, making some 
repairs, a fellow-workman accidentally let in the steam 
upon him. The blast struck him full in the face ; he 
was terribly scorched, and his eyesight was irretrievably 
lost. The helpless and infirm man had struggled for a 
time with poverty ; his sons who were at home, poor 
as himself, were little able to help him, while George 
was at a distance in Scotland. On his return, however, 
with his savings in his pocket, his first step was to pay 
off his father's debts, amounting to about 15/. ; and 
shortly after he removed the aged pair from Jolly's Close 
to a comfortable cottage adjoining the tramroad near 
the West Moor at Killingworth, where the old man 
lived for many years, supported entirely by his son. 

Stephenson was again taken on as a brakesman at 
the West Moor Pit. He does not seem to have been 
very hopeful as to his prospects in life about the 
time (1807-8). Indeed the condition of the working 
class generally was then very discouraging. England 
was engaged in a great war, which pressed upon 
the industry, and severely tried the resources, of the 
country. Heavy taxes were imposed upon all the 
articles of consumption that would bear them. There 
was a constant demand for men to fill the army, navy, 
and militia. Never before had England witnessed such 
drumming and fifing for recruits. In 180 5, the gross 
forces of the United Kingdom amounted to nearly 


700.000 men. ;m<l early in 18ns Lm-d Castlereagh 

curried ;i iiicnsmv for tin- establishmenl of ;i local 

militi;i of 200,000 men. These measures produced u-reat 

Miid -viMTnl distress unionist the labouring clnssrs. 
There were riots in Manchester, Xrwrastlr. MIM! else- 
where. tlirniiLrh scarcity of work ;md lowness of wages. 
The working people were also liable to be pressed for 
flu 1 navy, or drawn for the militia ; and though men 
could not fail to be discontented under such circum- 
stances, they scarcely dared, in those perilous times, 
even to mutter their discontent to their neighbours. 

George Stephenson was one of those drawn for the 
militia. He must therefore either quit his work and go 
a -soldiering, or find a substitute. He adopted the latter 
course, and borrowed 6/., which, with the remainder of 
his savings, enabled him to provide a militia-man to 
serve in his stead. Thus the whole of his hard-won 
earnings were swept away at a stroke. He was almost 
in despair, and contemplated the idea of leaving the 
country, and emigrating to the United States. Although 
a voyage there was then a much more formidable thing 
for a working man to accomplish than a voyage to Aus- 
tralia is now, he seriously entertained the project, and 
had all but made up his mind to go. His sister Ann, with 
her husband, emigrated about that time, but George 
could not raise the requisite money, and they departed 
without him. After all, it went sore against his heart 
to leave his home and his kindred, the scenes of his 
youth and the friends of his boyhood ; and he struggled 
long with the idea, brooding over it in sorrow. Speak- 
ing afterwards to a friend of his thoughts at the time, 

he said : " You know the road from my house at the 


West Moor to Killingworth. I remember once when I 
went along that road I wept bitterly, for I knew not 
where rny lot in life would be cast." But Providence 
had better things in store for George Stephenson than 
the lot of a settler in the wilds of America. It was 


well that liis poverty prevented him from prosecuting 
further the idea of emigration, and rooted him to the 
place where he afterwards worked out his great career 
so manfully and victoriously. 

In 1808, Stephenson, with two other brakesmen, 
named Robert Wedderburn and George Dodds, took a 
small contract under the colliery lessees for brakeing 
the engines at the West Moor Pit. The brakesmen 
found the oil and tallow ; they divided the work amongst 
them, and were paid so much per score for their labour. 
There being two engines working night and day, two 
of the three men were always at work ; the average 
earnings of each amounting to from 18-5. to 20.5. a week. 
It was the interest of the brakesmen to economise the 
working as much as possible, and George no sooner 
entered upon the contract than he proceeded to devise 
ways and means of making the contract " pay." He 
observed that the ropes with which the coal was drawn 
out of the pit by the winding-engine were badly ar- 
ranged ; they " glued," and wore each other to tatters 
by the perpetual friction. There was thus great wear 
and tear, and a serious increase in the expenses of the 
pit. George found that the ropes which, at other pits 
in the neighbourhood, lasted about three months, at the 
AVest Moor Pit became worn out in about a month. 
He accordingly set himself to ascertain the cause of 

<_} t/ 

the defect ; after which he proceeded, with the sanction 
of the head engine-wright and of the colliery owners, 
to shift the pulley-wheels so that they worked imme- 
diately over the centre of the pit, and by an entire 
rearrangement of the gearing of the machine, he shortly 
succeeded in greatly lessening the wear and tear of the 
ropes, to the advantage of the owners as well as of 
the workmen, who were thus enabled to labour more 
continuously and profitably. 

About the same time he attempted an improvement 
in the winding-engine which he worked, by placing a 



valve lietwrrn the ;i 1 1 1 -] H 1 1 1 1 1 ;in<l condenser. This 
expedient, although it !'! i< n<> practical result, showed 
that \\\^ mind was actively ;it work in mechanical 
adaptations. It continued to IK- liis regular habit, <>n 
Saturdays, to take liis engine to pieces, I'm- the purp<>- . 
; ,t tli,. Mime time, of familiarising himself with its action, 
;in.l of plaeinLr it in ;i state of thorough working order. 

Ami 1'v diliirentlv mastering ihe details of tin- engine, 

In- \v;is enabled, as opportunity occurred, to turn to 
practical account the knowledge thus acquired. 

Such an opportunity was not long in presenting itself. 
In the year 1810, a pit was sunk by the "Grand 
Allies' (the lessees of the mines) at the village of 
Killing-worth, now known as the Killinerworth lliirh 

O tj 

Pit. An atmospheric or Xewcomeii engine, originally 
made l>v Smeaton, was fixed there for the purpose of 
pumping out the water from the shaft ; but, somehow 
or other, the engine failed to clear the pit. As one of 
tlic workmen has since described the circumstance- 
" She couldn't keep her jack-head in water : all the 
eno'inemeii in the neighbourhood were tried, as well as 

O f' 

(Vowther of the Ouseburn, but they were clean bet." 


The engine had been fruitlessly pumping for nearly 
twelve months, and began to be spoken of as a total 
failure. Stephensoii had gone to look at it when in 
course of erection, and then observed to the over-man 
that he thought it was defective ; he also gave it as his 
opinion that, if there were much water in the mine, the 
engine would never keep it under. Of course, as he 
Avas only a brakesman, his opinion was considered to be 
worth very little on. such a point, and 110 more was 
thought about it. He continued, however, to make 
frequent visits to the engine, to see " how she was 
getting 011." From the bank-head where he worked 
his brake he could see the chimney smoking at the 
High Pit ; and as the workmen were passing to and 
from their work, he would call out and inquire " if they 


had gotten to the bottom yet?" And the reply was 
always to the same effect- -the pumping made no pro- 
gress, and the workmen were still " drowned out." 

One Saturday afternoon he went over to the High 
Pit to examine the engine more carefully than he had 
yet done. He had been turning the subject over in his 
mind ; and after a long examination, he seemed to 
satisfy himself as to the cause of the failure. Kit 
Heppel, who was a sinker at the pit, said to him : 
" Weel, George, what do you mak' o' her ? Do you 
think you could do anything to improve her ? ' " Man," 
said George in reply, " I could alter her and make her 
draw : in a week's time from this I could send you to 
the bottom." 

Forthwith Heppel reported this conversation to Ralph 
Dodds, the head viewer ; and Dodds, being now quite 
in despair, and hopeless of succeeding with the engine, 
determined to give George's skill a trial. George had 
already acquired the character of a very clever and 
ingenious workman ; and at the worst he could only 
fail, as the rest had done. In the evening, Mr. Dodds 
went towards Stepherison's cottage in search of him. 
He met him on the road, dressed in his Sunday's suit, 
about to proceed to "the preaching' in the Methodist 
Chapel, which he at that time attended. " Well, 
George," said Mr. Dodds, accosting him, " they tell me 
you think you can put the engine at the High Pit to 
rights." " Yes, sir," said George, " I think I could." 
" If that's the case, I'll give you a fair trial, and you 
must set to work immediately. We are clean drowned 
out, and cannot get a step further. The engineers here- 
abouts are all bet ; and if you really succeed in accom- 
plishing what they cannot do, you may depend upon it 
I will make you a man for life." 

Stephenson began his operations early next morning. 
The only condition that he made, before setting to work, 

E 2 


. tliat he should Belecl his o\vn workmen. There 
was, as lie knew, a guud deal ol' jealousy amongst the 
" regular" men that a colliery brakesman should pretend 
fco know more about their engine than they themselves 
did, ;md ;M tcnipt to remedy delects which the mosl 
skilled in' n of their craft, including the engineer of the 
eollierv. had failed to do. But George made the con- 
dition a sine >/"<'( non. " The workmen," said he, " must 
either he all Whigs or all Tories." There was no help 
for it, so Dodds ordered the old hands to stand aside. 
The men grumbled, but gave way; and then George 
and his party went in. 

The engine was taken entirely to pieces. The cistern 
containing the injection water was raised ten feet; the 
injection cock, being too small, was enlarged to nearly 
double its former size, and it was so arranged that it 
should be shut off quickly at the beginning of the stroke. 
These and other alterations were necessarily perform ed 
in a rough way, but, as the result proved, on true 
principles. Stepheiison also, finding that the boiler 
would bear a greater pressure than five pounds to the 
inch, determined to work it at a pressure often pounds, 
though this was contrary to the directions of both New- 
comen and Smeaton. The necessary alterations were 
made in about three days, and many persons came to 
see the engine start, including the men who had put 
her up. The pit being nearly full of water, she had 
little to do on starting, and, to use George's words, 
" came bounce into the house." Dodds exclaimed, 
" Why, she was better as she was ; now, she will knock 
the house down." After a short time, however, the 
engine got fairly to work, and by ten o'clock that night 
the water was lower in the pit than it had ever been 
before. The engine was kept pumping all Thursday, 
and by the Friday afternoon the pit was cleared of 
water, and the workmen were a sent to the bottom," as 


Stephenson had promised. Thus the alterations effected 
in the pumping apparatus proved completely successful. 1 
Mr. Dodds was particularly gratified with the manner 
in which the job had been done, and he made Stephen- 
son a present of ten pounds, which, though very in- 
adequate when compared with the value of the work 
performed, was accepted by him with gratitude. He 
was proud of the gift as the first marked recognition of 
his skill as a workman; and he used afterwards to s;iv 


that it was the biggest sum of money he had up to that 
time earned in one lump. Ralph Dodds, however, did 
more than this. He released the brakesman from the 
handles of the engine at West Moor, and appointed him 
engineman at the High Pit, at good wages, during 
the time the pit was sinking,- -the job lasting for about 
a year ; and he also kept him in mind for further 

Stephenson's skill as an engine-doctor soon became 
noised abroad, and he was called upon to prescribe 
remedies for all the old, wheezy, and ineffective pump- 
ing machines in the neighbourhood. In this capacity 
he soon left the " regular " men far behind, though they 
in their turn were very much disposed to treat the 
Killingworth brakesman as no better than a quack. 
Nevertheless, his practice was really founded upon a 
close study of the principles of mechanics, and on an 
intimate practical acquaintance with the details of the 

Another of his smaller achievements in the same line 
is still told by the people of the district. At the corner 
of the road leading to Long Benton, there was a quarry 
from which a peculiar and scarce kind of ochre was 

1 As different versions have been Stcphenson himself, as communicated 

given of this affair, it may be men- by the latter to his friend Thomas L. 

tioned that the above statement is j Goocli, C.E., who has kindly supplied 

made on the authority of the late the author with his memoranda on the 

Kobert Stephenson, and of George subject. 


taken. Ill the ennrse of working it out, tlic water li;i<l 

collected in considerable quantities; and there In-ill^- no 
means of draining it off, it accumulated to such an 
extent that the further working of the ochre was almost 
entirely stopt. Ordinary pumps were tried, and failed; 
and then a windmill was tried, and failed too. On this, 
George was asked what ought to be done to clear the 
quarry of the water. He said "he would set up for 
them an engine little bigger than a kail-pot, that would 
clear them out in a week." And he did so. A little 
engine was speedily erected, by means of which the 
quarry was pumped dry in the course of a few days. 
Thus his skill as a pump-doctor soon became the marvel 
of the district. 

In elastic muscular vigour, Stephenson was now 
in his prime, and he still continued to be zealous in 
measuring his strength and agility with his fellow 
workmen. The competitive element in his nature was 
always strong ; and his success in these feats of rivalry 
was certainly remarkable. Few, if any, could lift such 
weights, throw the hammer and putt the stone so far, 
or cover so great a space at a standing or running leap. 
One day between the engine hour and the rope-rolling 
hour, Kit Heppel challenged him to leap from one high 
wall to another, with a deep gap between them. To 
Heppel' s surprise and dismay, George took the standing 
leap, and cleared the eleven feet at a bound. Had his 
eye been less accurate, or his limbs less agile and sure, 
the feat must have cost him his life. 

But so full of redundant muscular vigour was he, that 
leaping, putting, or throwing the hammer were not 
enough for him. He was also ambitious of riding on 
horseback, and, as he had not yet been promoted to an 
office enabling him to keep a horse of his own, he some- 
times borrowed one of the gin-horses for a ride. On 
one of these occasions, he brought the animal back reek- 
ing ; when Tommy Mitcheson, the bank horse-keeper, 



a rough-spoken fellow, exclaimed to him : " Set such 
fellows as you on horseback, and you'll soon ride to the 
De'il." But Tommy Mitcheson lived to tell the joke, 
and to confess that, after all, there had been a better 
issue to George's horsemanship than that which he 

Old Cree, the engine-wright at Killingworth High 
Pit, having been killed by an accident, George Stephen- 
son was, in 1812, appointed engine-wright of the colliery 
at the salary of 100/. a year. He was also allowed the 
use of a galloway to ride upon in his visits of inspection 
to the collieries leased by the " Grand Allies ' ' in that 
neighbourhood. The " Grand Allies ' were a company 
of gentlemen, consisting of Sir Thomas Liddell (after- 
wards Lord Ravensworth), the Earl of Strathmore, and 
Mr. Stuart Wortley (afterwards Lord Wharncliffe), the 
lessees of the Killingworth collieries. Having been 
informed of the merits of Stephenson, of his indefatigable 
industry, and the skill which he had displayed in the 
repairs of the pumping-engines, they readily acceded to 
Mr. Dodds' recommendation that he should be appointed 
the colliery engine-wright ; and, as we shall afterwards 
find, they continued to honour him by distinguished 
marks of their approval. 





GEOKGK STEPHENSOX had now been diligently employed 
for many years in the. work of self-improvement, and 
lie experienced the. usual results in increasing mental 
strength, capability, and skill. Perhaps the secret of 
every man's best success in life is to be found in the 
alacrity and industry with which he takes advantage of 
the opportunities which present themselves for well- 
doing. Our engineman was an eminent illustration of 
the importance of cultivating this habit of life. Every 
spare moment was laid under contribution by him, either 
for the purpose of adding to his earnings, or to his 
knowledge. He missed no opportunity of extending 
his observations, especially in his own department of 
work, aiming at improvement, and trying to turn all 
that he did know to useful practical account. 

He continued his attempts to solve the mystery of 
Perpetual Motion, and contrived several model machines 


with the object of embodying his ideas in a practical 
working shape. He afterwards used to lament the 
time he had lost in these futile efforts, and said that if 
he had enjoyed the opportunity which most young men 
now have, of learning from books what previous expe- 
rimenters had accomplished, he would have been spared 
much labour and mortification. Not being acquainted 
with what other mechanics had done, he groped his way 
in pursuit of some idea originated by his own inde- 
pendent thinking and observation ; and, when he had 
brought it into some definite form, lo ! he found that his 
supposed invention had long been known and recorded 
in scientific books. Often he thought he had hit upon 
discoveries, which he subsequently found were but old 
and exploded fallacies. Yet his very struggle to over- 
come the difficulties which lay in his way, was of itself 
an education of the best sort. By wrestling with them, 
he strengthened his judgment and sharpened his skill, 
stimulating and cultivating his inventiveness and me- 
chanical ingenuity. Being very much in earnest, he 
was compelled to consider the subject of his special 
inquiry in all its relations ; and the necessity for tho- 
roughness would not suffer him to be superficial. Thus 
he gradually acquired practical ability even through his 
very efforts after the impracticable. 

Many of his evenings were spent in the society of 
John Wigham, whose father occupied the Glebe farm at 
Benton, close at hand. John was a fair penman and 
a sound arithmetician, and Stephen son frequented his 
society chiefly for the purpose of improving himself in 
writing and " figures." Under Andrew Robertson, he 
had never quite mastered the Rule of Three, and it was 
only when Wigham took him in hand that he made 
much progress in the higher branches of arithmetic. 
He generally took his slate with him to the Wighams' 
cottage, when he had his sums set, that he might work 
them out while tending the engine on the following 


<1;IY. When ton lnisv with other Work to 1 M ahl<- to c;ill 

upon Wigham in person, lie sent tlic slate \>y -,\ fellow- 
workmaD to have tin- former sums corrected and n<-\v 
ones set. Sometimes aUo, ;tt Icismv moments, In- was 

enabled to jo ;i little "figuring' with chalk Upon the 

sides of the coal-waggons. So much patient perse- 
verance could not but eventually succeed; and by dint 

of practice and study, Stephensoii W;is enabled SUCCCS- 

sivelv to master the various rules < .1' arithmetic. 


John AViu'ham was of great use to his pupil in many 
ways. He was a good talker, fond of argument, an 
extensive reader as country reading went in those days, 
and a very suggestive tliinker. Though his store of 
information might be comparatively small when mea- 
sured with that of more highly-cultivated niinds, much 
of it was entirely new to Stephensoii, who regarded him as 
a very clever and extraordinary person. Young as John 
Wigham was, he could give much useful assistance to 
Stephensoii at the time, and his neighbourly services 
were worth untold gold to the eager pupil. Wigham 
taught him to draw plans and sections ; though in this 
branch Stephenson proved so apt that he soon sur- 
passed his master. Wigham also possessed some know- 
ledge of Natural Philosophy, and a volume of ' Fer- 
guson's Lectures on Mechanics ' which he possessed 
was a great treasure to both the students. One who 
remembers their evening occupations says he used to 
wonder what they meant by weighing the air and water 
in so odd a way. They were trying the specific gra- 
vities of objects ; and the devices which they employed, 
the mechanical shifts to which they were put, were often 
of the rudest kind. In these evening entertainments, the 
mechanical contrivances were supplied by Stephenson, 
whilst Wighani found the scientific rationale. The 
opportunity thus afforded to the former of cultivating 
his mind by contact with one wiser than himself proved 
of great value, and in after-life Stephenson gratefully 


remembered the assistance which, when a humble work- 
man, he had derived from John Wigham, the farmer's 

His leisure moments thus carefully improved, it will 
be inferred that Stephenson continued a sober man. 
Though his notions were never extreme on this point, 
he was systematically temperate. It appears that on 
the invitation of his master, Ralph Dodds and an invi- 
tation from a master to a workman is not easy to resist 
he had, on one or two occasions, been induced to join 
him in a forenoon glass of ale in the public-house of the 
village. But one day, about noon, when Mr. Dodds had 
got him as far as the public-house door, on his invitation 
to " come in and take a glass o' yel," Stephenson made a 
dead stop, and said, firmly, " No, sir, you must excuse 
me ; I have made a resolution to drink no more at this 
time of day." And he went back. He desired to retain 
the character of a steady workman ; and the instances 
of men about him who had made shipwreck of their 
character through intemperance, were then, as now, 
unhappily but too frequent. 

But another consideration besides his own self-im- 
provement had already begun to exercise an important 
influence upon his life. This was the training and 
education of his son Robert, now growing up a healthy, 
intelligent boy, as full of fun and tricks as his father had 
been, but like him also possessing an abundant capacity 
for knowledge. When a little fellow, not big enough 
to reach so high as to put a clock-head on when placed 
upon the table, his father would make him mount a chair 
for the purpose ; and to " help father " was the proudest 
work which the boy then, and ever after, could take part 
in. When the little engine was set up at the Ochre 
Quarry to pump it dry, Robert was scarcely absent for 
an hour. He watched the machine very eagerly when 
it was set to work ; and he was very much annoyed at 
the fire burning away the grates. The man who fired 


EDUCATION or IMS s<>\ ]{o|',KUT. 


the engine was a sort of \vag, and thinking to get a 
laugh at tin 1 boy, lie saiM. k> Those liars arc getting varra 

bad, Robert; 1 think we maun cu1 up some of thai hard 

wood, and |>n< it in instead." " AVhat would he the use 
of that, vou fool?' said the boy (jmVkly. " Von would 
no soon< r lia\-e |>iii them in tlian tliey would be burnt 
out again ! ' 

So soon as Ivobert was of a proper M ( UV, liis fathersenl 
him over to the road-side school at Lonu 1 I>enton, kc]>t by 
liiitter, tlie jiarisli clerk. l>ut the education whidi Jiiitter 
could irive was of a very limited kind, scarcely extending; 
beyond the primer and pothooks. While workinir as a 
brakesman on the pit-head at Killingworth, the father 
had often bethought him of the obstructions he had 
himself encountered in life through his own want of 
schooling ; and he formed the noble determination that 
no labour, nor pains, nor self-denial on his part should be 
spared to furnish his son with the best education that it 
was in Ins power to bestow. 

BUTTER'S SCHOOL KOD6E. I/.'. iOX. [By R. P Leitch.j 


It is true his earnings were comparatively small at 
that time. He was still maintaining his infirm parents ; 
and the cost of living continued excessive. But he fell 
back, as before, upon his old expedient of working up 
his spare time in the evenings at home, or during the 
night shifts when it was his turn to tend the engine, in 
mending and making shoes, cleaning clocks and watches, 
making shoe-lasts for the shoemakers of the neighbour- 
hood, and cutting out the pitmen's clothes for their 
wives ; and we have been told that to this day there 
are clothes worn at Killing-worth made after " Geordy 
Steevie's cut." To give his own words:- -"In the 
earlier period of my career," said he, "when Robert 
was a little boy, I saw how deficient I was in education, 
and I made up my mind that he should not labour under 
the same defect, but that I would put him to a good 
school, and give him a liberal training. I was, however, 
a poor man ; and how do you think I managed ? I 
betook myself to mending my neighbours' clocks and 
watches at nights, after my daily labour was done, and 
thus I procured the means of educating my son." 1 

By dint of such extra labour in his bye-hours, with 
this object, Stephensoii contrived to save a sum of 100/., 
which he accumulated in guineas, each of which he after- 
wards sold to Jews who went about buying up gold 
coins (then dearer than silver), at twenty-six shillings 
apiece ; and he lent out the proceeds at interest. He 
was now, therefore, a comparatively thriving man. The 
first guinea which he had saved with so much difficulty 
at Black Callerton had proved the nest-egg of future 
guineas ; and the habits of economy and sobriety which 
he had so early cultivated, now enabled him to secure a 
firmer foothold in the world, and to command the in- 
creased esteem and respect of his fellow-workmen and 

1 Speech at Newcastle, on the I8th celebration of the opening of the New- 
of June, 1844, at the meeting held in castle and Darlington Railway. 




Carrying 1 out tin- resolution MS to his hoy's education, 

Roberl was sent t<> Mi-. I>ruce's school in IVrcy Street, 
.Newcastle. ;it ,M idsunmier, lSl.~>, \vheii he was about 
twelve vears old. His father bonirht for liiiu a donkey, 


on which lie rode into Newcastle ;md l>;ick daily; and 
there MIV many still living who remember ihe little boy, 
dressed in his suit of homely grey stuff, cut out by his 
father, cantering along to school upon the " cuddy," with 
In's wallet of provisions for ihe day and his bag of books 
slung over his shoulder. 


AY hen Robert went to Mr. Bruce's school, he was a 
shy, unpolished country lad, speaking the broad dialect 
of the pitmen ; and the other boys would occasionally 
tease him, for the purpose of provoking an outburst 
of his Killingworth Doric. As the shyness got rubbed 
off by familiarity, his love of fun began to show itself, 
and he w T as found able enough to hold his own amongst 
the other boys. As a scholar he was steady and diligent, 


and his master was accustomed to hold him up to the 
laggards of the school as an example of good conduct 
and industry. But his progress, though satisfactory, 
was by no means extraordinary. He used in after-life 
to pride himself on his achievements in mensuration, 
though another boy, John Taylor, beat him at arith- 
metic. He also made considerable progress in mathe- 
matics ; and in a letter written to the son of his teacher, 
many years after, he said, " It was to Mr. Bruce' s 
tuition and methods of modelling the mind that I attri- 
bute much of my success as an engineer ; for it was 
from him that I derived my taste for mathematical 


pursuits and the facility I possess of applying this kind 
of knowledge to practical purposes and modifying it 
according to circumstances." 

During the time Robert attended school at Newcastle, 
his father made the boy's education instrumental to his 
own. Robert was accustomed to spend some of his 
spare time at the rooms of the Literary and Philosophical 
Institute ; and when he went home in the evening, he 
would recount to his father the results of his reading. 
Sometimes he was allowed to take with him to Killing- 
worth a volume of the 4 Repertory of Arts and Sciences,' 
which father and son studied together. But many of 
the most valuable w^orks belonging to the Newcastle 
Library w^ere not permitted to be removed from the 
rooms ; these Robert was instructed to read and study, 
and bring away with him descriptions and sketches for 
his father's information. His father also practised him 
in the reading of plans and drawings without at all 
referring to the written descriptions. He used to ob- 
serve to his son, " A good drawing or plan should 
always explain itself ; ' and, placing a drawing of an 
engine or machine before the youth, he would say, 
"There, now, describe that to me- -the arrangement 
and the action." Thus he taught him to read a drawing 


;is easilv ;is In- would read ;i pair* 1 of ;i book. Both 

1 ' 

tlitlirr and son profited I'v tins excellent practice, which 

* i 

shortlv enabled them 1<> apprehend with the irrcatesl 
Facility th< v details of even the most difficult and com- 

plicated mechanical drawing. 

While Robert went <m \viih liis lessons in the evenings, 

liis lather was usually occupied with his watch and clock 

cleaning; or in contriving models of pumping engini 
or endeavouring to embody in a tangible shape the, 
mechanical inventions which ho found described in 
the odd volume's on Mechanics which fell in his way. 
This daily and unceasing example of industry and ap- 
plication, working on before the boy's eyes in the person 
of a loving and beloved father, imprinted itself deeply 
upon his heart in characters never to be effaced. A spirit 
of self-improvement was thus early and carefully planted 
and fostered in Robert's mind, which continued to influ- 
ence him through life ; and to the close of his career, he 
was proud to confess that if his professional success had 
been great, it was mainly to the example and training of 
his father that he owed it. 

Robert was not, however, exclusively devoted to 
study, but, like most boys full of animal spirits, he was 
very fond of fun and play, and sometimes of mischief. 
Dr. Bruce relates that an old Killing worth labourer, when 
asked by Robert, on one of his last visits to Newcastle, 
if he remembered him, replied with emotion, "Ay, 
indeed ! Haven't I paid your head many a time when 
you came with your father's bait, for you were always 
a sad hempy ? ' 

The author had the pleasure, in the year 1854, of 
accompanying Robert Stephenson on a visit to his old 
home and haunts at Killing worth. He had so often 
travelled the road upon his donkey to and from school, 
that every foot of it was familiar to him ; and each 
turn in it served to recall to mind some incident of 


his boyish days. 1 His eyes glistened when he came 
in sight of Killingworth pit head. Pointing to a humble 
red-tiled house by the road-side at Benton, he said, 
" You see that house- -that was Rutter's, where I learnt 
my ABC, and made a beginning of my school learn- 
ing. And there," pointing to a colliery chimney on the 
left, " there is Long Benton, where my father put up 
his first pumping-engine ; and a great success it was. 
And this humble clay-floored cottage you see here, is 
where my grandfather lived till the close of his life. 
Many a time have I ridden straight into the house, 
mounted on my cuddy, and called upon grandfather to 
admire his points. I remember the old man feeling the 
animal all over- -he was then quite blind- -after which 
he would dilate upon the shape of his ears, fetlocks, and 
quarters, and usually end by pronouncing him to be a 
' real blood.' I was a great favourite with the old man, 
who continued very fond of animals, and cheerful to the 
last ; and I believe nothing gave him greater pleasure 
than a visit from me and my cuddy." 

On the way from Benton to High Killingworth, 
Mr. Stephenson pointed to a corner of the road where 
he had once played a boyish trick upon a Killingworth 
collier. " Straker," said he, " was a great bully, a 
coarse, swearing fellow, and a perfect tyrant amongst 
the women and children. He would go tearing into old 
Nanny the huxter's shop in the village, and demand in 
a savage voice, ' What's ye'r best ham the pund ? ' 
' What's floor the hunder ? ' ' What d'ye ax for prime 
bacon?'- -his questions often ending with the miserable 
order, accompanied with a tremendous oath, of ' Gie's a 
penny rrow (roll) an' a baubee herrin ! The poor 
woman was usually set * all of a shake ' by a visit from 

1 At one i art of the road he was Many years after, Burnet was taken on 

once pulled off' Ms donkey by some as a workman at the Newcastle factory, 

mischievous boys, and released by a probably owing his selection in some 

young man named James Burnet. measure to the above circumstance. 



this fellow. He Was also a great hoastel 1 . aild Used to 

er.\v over lln 1 rohhcrs whom IK- h;nl ]iit to flighl ; men- 

men in buckram, ;is everybody knew. \Ve hoys." he 

continued, " helieved him to he a irivat coward, ;ni<l 

determined to piny him ;t trick. Two other hoys joined 
mr in waylaying Straker one night at tliat corner," 
poiniinir to it. " We sprang out aoid called upon him, 
in as LIT 1 1 IV voices as we could assume, to ' stand and 
deliver! He dropped down upon his knees in the dirt, 
declaring he was a poor man, with a sma" family, 
asking for ' mercy/ and imploring us, as ' gentlemen, for 
God's sake, t' let him a-he!' \Ve couldn't stand this 
any longer, and set up a shout of laughter. Recognizing 
our hoys' voices, lie sprang to his feet again and rattled 
out a volley of oaths ; on which we cut through the 
hedge, and heard him shortly after swearing his way 
along the road to the yill-house." 

On another occasion, he played a series of tricks of a 
somewhat different character. Like his father, he was 
very fond of reducing his scientific reading to practice ; 
and after studying Franklin's description of the light- 
ning experiment, he proceeded to expend his store of 
Saturday pennies in purchasing ahout half-a-mile of 
copper wire at a brazier's shop in Newcastle. Having 
prepared his kite, he sent it up in the field opposite his 
father's door, and bringing the wire, insulated by means 
of a few feet of silk cord, over the backs of some of 
Farmer Wigham's cows, he soon had them skipping 
about the field in all directions with their tails up. One 
day he had his kite flying at the cottage-door as his 
father's galloway was hanging by the bridle to the 
paling, waiting for the master to mount. Bringing the 
end of the wire just over the pony's crupper, so smart 
an electric shock was given it, that the brute was almost 
knocked down-. At this juncture the father issued from 
the door, riding-whip in hand, and was witness to 
the scientific trick just played off upon his galloway. 





" All ! you mischievous scoondrel ! cried lie to the boy, 

V I 

who ran off. He inwardly chuckled with pride, never- 
theless, at Robert's successful experiment. 

At this time, and for many years after, Stephenson 
dwelt in a cottage standing by the side of the road 
leading from the West Moor colliery to Killingworth. 
The railway from the West Moor Pit crosses this road 
close by the easternmost end of the cottage. The 
dwelling originally consisted of but one apartment on 
the ground-floor, with a garret over-head, to which 
access was obtained by means of a step-ladder. But 
with his own hands Stephenson built an oven, and in 
the course of time he added rooms to the cottage, until 
it became a comfortable four-roomed dwelling, in which 
he remained as long as he lived at Killingworth. 

He continued as fond of birds and animals as ever, 
and seemed to have the power of attaching them to him 
in a remarkable degree. He had a blackbird at Kil- 
so fond of him, that it would fly about the 


F 2 


COlt:r_iv, iiinl <>n hnldm^ nut his linger, the hird would 


come and perch upon it directly. A cage was built I'm- 

" Maekie ' in the j >;i rii tim i between i lie passage and the 

room, ;i stjiKiiv nl' irlass forming its mit'-L 1 Avail; and 
liohert used afterwards in lake pleasure in describing 
the oddity of the hird, imitating the manner in \vhich it 
\\nuld enek its head nn his lather's entering the house, 
and follow him with its eye into the inner apartment. 

Neighbours were accustomed to call al the collage 
and have their clocks and watches set to rights when 
they went wrong. One day, after looking at the works 
of a watch left by a pitman's wife, Greorge handed it to 
his son ; " Put her in the oven, Robert," said he, " for a 
quarter of an hour or so." It seemed an odd way of 
repairing a watch ; nevertheless, the watch was put into 
the oven, and at the end of the appointed time it was 
taken out, going all right. The wheels had merely 
got clogged by the oil congealed by the cold ; which at 
once explains the rationale of the remedy adopted. 

There was a little garden attached to the cottage, in 
which, while a workman, Stephenson took a pride in 
growing gigantic leeks and astounding cabbages. 
There was great competition amongst the villagers in 
the growth of vegetables, all of whom he excelled, 
excepting one of his neighbours, whose cabbages some- 
times outshone his. In the protection of his garden- 
crops from the ravages of the birds, he invented a 
strange sort of " ney-craw," which moved its arms with 
the wind ; and he fastened his garden-door by means of 
a piece of ingenious mechanism, so that no one but him- 
self could enter it. His cottage was quite a curiosity- 
shop of models of engines, self-acting planes, and 
perpetual-motion machines, - - which last contrivance, 
however, as effectually baffled him as it had done 
hundreds of preceding inventors. His odd and eccentric 
contrivances often excited great wonder amongst the 
Killing worth villagers. He won the women's admira- 


tion by connecting their cradles with the smoke-jack, 
and making them self-acting. Then he astonished the 
pitmen by attaching an alarum to the clock of the 
watchman whose duty it was to call them betimes in 
the morning. He also contrived a wonderful lamp 
which burned under water, with which he was after- 
wards wont to amuse the Brandling family at Gosforth, 
-going into the fish-pond at night, lamp in hand, 
attracting and catching the fish, which rushed wildly 
towards the flame. 

Dr. Bruce tells of a competition which Stephenson 
had with the joiner at Killing worth, as to which of 
them could make the best shoe-last ; and when the 
former had done his work, either for the humour of the 
thing, or to secure fair play from the appointed judge, 
he took it to the Morrisons in Newcastle, and got them 
to put their stamp upon it. So that it is possible the 
Killingworth brakesman, afterwards the inventor of the 
safety-lamp and the originator of the railway system, 
and John Morrison, the last -maker, afterwards the 
translator of the Scriptures into the Chinese language, 
may have confronted each other in solemn contem- 
plation over the successful last, which won the verdict 
coveted by its maker. 

Sometimes he would endeavour to impart to his 
fellow-workmen the results of his scientific reading. 
Everything that he learnt from books was so new and 
so wonderful to him, that he regarded the facts he drew 
from them in the light of discoveries, as if they had 
been made but yesterday. Once he tried to explain to 
some of the pitmen how the earth was round, and kept 
turning round. But his auditors flatly declared the 
thing to be impossible, as it was clear that " at the 
bottom side they must fall off!' "Ah!' said George, 
" you don't quite understand it yet." His son Robert 
also early endeavoured to communicate to others the 
information, which he had gathered at school ; and Dr. 



liruee li;ts related ili;if. when visiting Killingworth OD 

OIK- occasion, lir found him eiiLrap'd in teaching alird >ra 

to sucli of the pitmen's bo\ s us would become his pupils. 

While Ifoberl wns still ;il school, his Hither proposed 

to him during the holidays that lie should construct a 


sim-di;il. lo l>e placed over their cottage-door ;it AVe.-t 
Moor. " I expostulated with him at first," said Robert, 
" that I had not learnt sufficient astronomy and mathe- 
matics to enable me to make the necessary calculations. 
But he would have no denial. 'The thing is to be 
done/ said he ; ' so just set about it at once.' AVell ; 
we got a ' Ferguson's Astronomy/ and studied the 
subject together. Many a sore head I had while making 
the necessary calculations to adapt the dial to the lati- 
tude of Killingworth. But at length it was fairly 
drawn out on paper, and then my father got a stone, 
and we hewed, and carved, and polished it, until we 
made a very respectable dial of it ; and there it is, you 
see," pointing to it over the cottage-door, " still quietly 

numbering the hours 
when the sun is shining. 
I assure you, riot a little 
was thought of that piece 
of work by the pitmen 
when it was put up, and 
began to tell its tale of 


time." The date carved 
upon the dial is " August 
llth, MDCCCXVK" Both 
father and son were in 
after-life very proud of 
their joint production. 
Many years after, George 

took a party of savans, when attending the meeting of 
the British Association at Newcastle, over to Killing- 
worth to see the pits, and he did not fail to direct their 
attention to the sun-dial; and Robert, on the last visit 


which he made to the place, a short time before his 
death, took a friend into the cottage, and pointed out to 

him the very desk, still there, at which he had sat while 


making his calculations of the latitude of Killingworth. 

From the time of his appointment as engineer at the 
Killingworth Pit, Greorge Stephenson was in a measure 
relieved from the daily routine of manual labour, having, 
as we have seen, advanced himself to the grade of a 
higher class workman. He had not ceased to be a 
worker, though he employed his industry in a different 
way. It might, indeed, be inferred that he had now 
the command of greater leisure ; but his spare hours 
were as much as ever given to work, either necessary 
or self-imposed. So far as regarded his social position, 
he had already reached the summit of his ambition ; and 
when he had got his hundred a year, and his dun 
galloway to ride on, he said he never wanted to be any 
higher. When Robert Wetherly offered to give him 
an old gig, his travelling having so much increased of 
late, he accepted it with great reluctance, observing, 
that he should be ashamed to get into it, " people would 
think him so proud." 

When the High Pit had been sunk, and the coal was 
ready for working, Stephenson erected his first winding- 
engine to draw the coals out of the pit, and also a 
pumping-engine for Long Benton colliery, both of 
which proved quite successful. Amongst other works 
of this time, he projected and laid down a self-acting 
incline along the declivity w T hich fell tow r ards the coal- 
loading place near Willington, w^here he had formerly 
officiated as brakesman ; and he so arranged it, that the 
full waggons descending drew the empty w T aggoiis up 
the incline. This was one of the first self-acting inclines 
laid down in the district. 

Stephenson had now many more opportunities for 
improving himself in mechanics than he had hitherto 
possessed. His familiar acquaintance with the steam- 

i _ 



engine proved <>!' <jTeat value l<> him. His shrewd 
insight, together with liis intimate practical acquaint- 
ance with its mechanism, enahled him to apprehend, ;is 
it' hv intuition, its most ahstruse and diflScult combina- 
tions. Tlu' practical study which lie Lad ^ivcn to it 
when ;i workman, and the patient manner in which he 
had uToiu'd his wav through all the details of the 

D 1 t 

machine, ^ave liim the power of a master in dealing 
with it as applied to eolliery purposes. 

Sir Thomas Liddell was frequently ahout the works, 
and took pleasure in giving every encouragement to 
the engine-wright in his efforts after improvement. 
The subject of the locomotive engine was already 
closely occupying Stephenson's attention ; although it 
was still regarded in the light of a curious and costly 
toy, of comparatively little real use. But lie had at an 
early period detected the practical value of the machine, 
and formed an adequate conception of the might which 
as yet slumbered within it ; and he was not slow in 
bending the whole faculties of his mind to the develop- 
ment of its extraordinary powers. 





THE rapid increase in the coal trade of the Tyne about the 
beginning of the present century had the effect of stimu- 
lating the ingenuity of mechanics, and encouraging them 
to devise improved methods of transporting the coal from 
the pits to the shipping places. From our introductory 
chapter, it will have been observed that the improvements 
which had thus far been effected were confined almost 
entirely to the road. The railway waggons still con- 
tinued to be drawn by horses. By improving and flat- 
tening the tramway, considerable economy in horse-power 
had indeed been secured ; but unless some more effective 
method of mechanical traction could be devised, it was 
clear that railway improvement had almost reached its 

Many expedients had been tried with this object. 
One of the earliest was that of hoisting sails upon the 
waggons, and driving them along the waggon-way, as 
a ship is driven through the water by the wind. This 
method seems to have been employed by Sir Humphrey 
Mackworth, an ingenious coal-miner at ISTeath in 
Glamorganshire, about the end of the seventeenth cen- 
tury. In Waller's ' Essay on Mines,' published in 1698, 
the writer highly eulogises Sir Humphrey's " new 
sailing-waggons, for the cheap carriage of his coal to 
the waterside, whereby one horse does the work of ten 
at all times ; but when any wind is stirring (which is 

SAILING \\ .\i.iio.\s. 


seldom wimliiiLr nr;ir tin- sea) one ni:m ;unl ;i siniill s;nl 
d i tin- wt irk <>!' t wnit \ ." 

This iiM'tlmd tf impelling coal-waggons, however, 

could not linvr come into -viicm! use, ns il \\;is |it 
Mirlit <>!' lor more limn ;i century. \vlicii il was n^am 
pnpird as ;i new nn-tliod of tran>il l>y Jlicliard Lovcll 
Ivl--\\ ortli. with tin- addition of a portable railway.- 
sincr revived in HoydeH's patent. But although Mi'. 
I'Mirwnrth devoted himself to the subject for many 
years, he failed in securing tlie adoption of his sailing 
carriage. 3 He made numerous experiments with his 
ma el lines on Hare Hatch Common, but they were aban- 
doned in consequence of the dangerous results which 
threatened to attend them. It is indeed quite clear that 
a power so uncertain as wind could never be relied on 
for ordinary traffic, and Mr. Edgworth's project was 
consequently left to repose in the limbo of the Patent 
Office, with thousands of other equally useless though 
ingenious contrivances. 

A much more favourite scheme was the application 
of steam power for the purpose of carriage traction. 
Savery, the inventor of the working steam-engine, was 
the first to propose its employment to propel vehicles 
along common roads; and in 1759 Dr. Robison, then a 
young man studying at Glasgow College, threw out the 
same idea to his friend James "\Vatt ; but the scheme 

1 The writer adds, " I believe he 
(Sir Humphrey Mackworth) is the 
first gentleman in this part of the 
world that hath set up sailing-engines 
on land, driven by the wind ; not for 
any curiosity, or vain applause, but 
for real profit, whereby he could not 
i'ail of Bishop Melkin's blessing on his 
undertakings, in case he were in a 
uq acity to bestow it." 'An Essay 
on the Value of the Mines late of Sir 
Carberry Price.' By William Waller, 
Gent., Steward of the said Mines. 
London, 1698. 

2 Specification of patent, Xo. 053. 

3 Mr. Edgworth says in his ' Me- 
moirs,' that he devoted himself to im- 
proving his scheme for a period of not 
less than forty years, during which he 
made above a hundred working models 
in a great variety of forms; and he 
adds, that he gained lar more in 
amusement than he lost by unsuc- 
cessful labour. "Indeed," he says, 
"the only mortification that affected 
me was my discovery, many years 
after I had taken out my patent, that 
the rudiments of my whole scheme 
were mentioned in an obscure memoir 
of the French Academy." 




was not matured. Watt afterwards, in the specification 
of his patent of 1769, described an engine of the kind 
suggested by his friend Robison, in which the expansive 
force of steam was proposed as the motive power ; but no 
steps were taken to reduce the invention to practice. 

The first locomotive steam-carriage was built at Paris 
by a French engineer named Cugnot, a native of Lor- 
raine. It is said to have been invented for the purpose 
of dragging cannon into the field independent of the 
help of horses. 1 The first model of this machine was 
made in IT 63. Marshal Saxe was so much pleased with 
it that on his recommendation a full-sized engine was 
constructed at the Arsenal at the cost of the French 
monarch, and in 1769 it was tried in the presence of 
the Due de Choiseul, Minister of War, General Gri- 
beauval, and other officers. At one of the experiments 
it ran onward with such force that it knocked down a 
wall which stood in its way. It was found, however, 
that the new vehicle, loaded with four persons, could 
not travel faster than two miles and a half in the hour. 
The size of the boiler not being sufficient to keep up 
the steam, it could only work for about fifteen minutes 
at a time ; after which it was necessary to wait until 



the steam had again risen to a sufficient pressure. To 
remedy this defect, Cugnot constructed a new machine 
in 1770, which gave somewhat more satisfactory results. 

1 'Le Vieux-Neuf: Histoire An- 
cienne des Inventions et DecouverU'S 

Modernes.' Par Edouard Foamier 
Paris, 1850. 


It was composed n|' two parts ihe fore part consisting 

of a .-mall steam-engine, formed of a round copper boiler, 
with a furnace inside. provided with t\v<> small chim- 
neys and two single-acting lrass slcam cylinders, whose 


pistons neted alternately upon the single driving wheel. 
The hinder pan consisted merely of a rude carriage <>n 

two wheels to carry the load, furnished with a seat in 


front for the conductor. This engine was tried in the 

street > of Paris; but when passing near where the 
Madeleine now stands, it overbalanced itself on turn- 
mo; a corner, and fell over with a crash ; after which, 


its employment being thought dangerous, it was locked 
up in the Arsenal to prevent further mischief. The 
machine is, however, still to be seen in the collection 
of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers at Paris. It 
has very much the look of a' long brewer's cart, 
with the addition of the circular boiler hung on at one 
end. Nevertheless it was a highly creditable piece of 
work, considering the period at which it was executed ; 
and as the first actual machine constructed for the pur- 
pose of travelling on ordinary roads by the power of 
steam, it is certainly a most curious and interesting 
mechanical relic, well worthy of preservation. 

But though Cugnot's road locomotive remained locked 
up from public sight, the subject was not dead ; for we 
find inventors from time to time employing themselves 
in attempting to solve the problem of steam locomotion 
in places far remote from Paris. The idea had taken 
root, and was striving to grow into a reality. Thus 
Oliver Evans, the American, invented a steam-carriage 
in 1772 to travel on common roads; in 1787 he ob- 
tained from the State of Maryland an exclusive right 
to make and use steam-carriages ; but his invention 
never came into use. Then, in 1784, William Syming- 
ton, one of the early inventors of the steamboat, was 
similarly occupied in Scotland in endeavouring to deve- 
lope the latent powers of the steam-carriage. He had 





a working model of one constructed, which he exhibited 
in 1786 to the professors of Edinburgh College ; but the 
state of the Scotch roads was then so bad that he found 
it impracticable to proceed further with his scheme, 
which he shortly after abandoned in favour of steam 
navigation. 1 

The very same year in which Symington was occu- 
pied upon his steam-carriage, William Murdock, the 
friend and assistant of Watt, constructed his model of 
a locomotive at the oppo- 
site end of the island- -at 
Redruth in Cornwall. His 
model was of small dimen- 
sions, standing little more 
than a foot high ; and it was 
until recently in the posses- 
sion of the son of the inven- 
tor, at whose house we saw 
it a few years ago. The 
annexed section will give an idea of the arrangements 
of this machine. 

It acted on the high-pressure principle, and, like 
Cugnot's engine, ran upon three wheels, the boiler being 
heated by a spirit-lamp. Small though the machine 
was, it went so fast on one occasion that it fairly outran 
the speed of its inventor. It seems that one night, 
after returning from his duties at the Eedruth mine, 
Murdock determined to try the working of his model 
locomotive. For this purpose he had recourse to the 
w r alk leading to the church, about a mile from the town. 
The walk was rather narrow, and was bounded on 
either side by high hedges. It was a dark night, and 
Murdock set out alone to try his experiment. Having 


1 See a pamphlet entitled ' A brief 
Narrative, proving the right of the 
late William Symington, Civil Engi- 
neer, to be considered the Inventor of 

Steam Land-Carriage Locomotion ; 
and also the Inventor and Introducer 
of Steam Navigation.' By Robert 
Bowie. London, 1833. 


lit Ins lump, the water shortly le_ran ti boil, and <>11 

started tin- cii^iiic \viili the inventor al'hT it. He sunn 

heard distant shouts of despair. It \v;is too dark to 

pi-nvivr objects ; hut lie shortly foiiinl. on following 

up tin- machine, that ihe cries lor assistaner proceeded 
from tin- wortliv ]>;istor of the parish, who. ^oinir to- 
wanU the town on business,was met on \\\\> lonely road 

l>y tin- liiin^- :unl licvy little monster, whirli IK- snliso- 
quently declared lie li;i<l taken to !><> tin- Kvil One /'// 
proprid persond. Xo fm-tlicr steps, however, were tnkon 
by Murdock to embody his idnt <>l'a locomotive cai-ria^e 
in a more practical form. 

We next find the discussion of steam-power as a 
means of haulage of heavy articles taken up in tin- 
colliery districts of the Xorth, where the want of some 
more effective means of transport than horse-power was 
most generally felt. One Thomas Allen took out a 
patent in 178!) for conveying goods from one place to 
another l>y the power of steam only. From his plan, 
which is in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries 
at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it appears that he intended the 
wheels of his machine to be cogged ; yet he anticipated 
a speed on a common road of about ten miles an hour. 
It will be observed that no one had yet proposed to 
apply steam-carriages to railways, but only to common 
roads, though it is easy to see how the steam-engine 
ami the iron-road should have come together in the 
ordinary course of things. The use of tramroads and 
railways had now become quite general in the mining 
districts, and their extension throughout the country 
for the conveyance of general merchandise began 

to be seriously discussed. Thus, in 1800, we find 


Mr. Thomas, of Denton, Northumberland, reading a 
paper before the Literary and Philosophical Society 
of Newcastle, in which he urged " the propriety of 
introducing roads on the principle of the coal-waggon 
ways, for the general carriage of goods and mer- 

CHAP. V]. 



clianclise throughout the conn try." In the course of 

CD *J 

the following year the same idea was taken up and 
strongly advocated by Dr. James Anderson, of Edin- 
burgh, in his ' Recreations of Agriculture.' He held 
that if railways were laid along the existing turn- 
pike roads, and worked by horse-power, the cost of 
most articles of consumption would be diminished, 
whilst all departments of human industry would be 
greatly benefited. Mr. Edgworth, also, continued his 
enthusiastic advocacy of railways, and urged their 
general employment for the conveyance of passengers 
as well as goods. " Stage-coaches," he said, " might be 
made to go at six miles an hour, and post-chaises and 
gentlemen's travelling carriages at eight- -both with 
one horse ; and small stationary steam-engines, placed 
from distance to distance, might be made, by means of 
circulating chains, to draw the carriages, with a great 
diminution of horse-labour and expense." 

While this discussion was going forward, Richard 
Trevithick, a captain in a Cornish tin-mine, and a pupil 
of William Murdock's- -influenced, no doubt, by the 
successful action of the model engine which the latter 
had constructed- -determined to build a steam-carriage 
adapted for use on common roads as well as on rail- 
ways. He took out a patent to secure the right of his 
invention in the year 1802. Andrew Vivian, his 
cousin, joined with him in the patent 1 - -Vivian finding 
the money, and Trevithick the brains. The steam- 


carriage built on this patent presented the appearance 
of an ordinary stage-coach on four wheels. The engine 
had one horizontal cylinder, which, together with the 
boiler and the furnace-box, was placed in the rear of 

1 Tlie patent was dated the 24th 
March, 1802, and described as "A 
grant unto Pilchard Trevithick and 
Andrew Vivian, of the parish of Cran- 
bourne, in the county of Cornwall, 
engineers and miners, for their in- 

o ' 

vented methods of improving the con- 
struction of steam-engines, and the 
application thereof for driving car- 
riages, and for other purposes." No. 
of the patent 2599. 


the liind axle. The motion of the piston \v:is trans- 
initti'<l to a separate crank-axle, IVom \vhieh, through 
the medium of spur-gear, the axle of the driving-wheel 
(\\hieh was mounted \vitli ;i fly-wheel) derived its mo- 
tion. Tin- steam-cocks and the force-pump, as al>o the 
bellows used foi- the purpose of quickening combustion 
in the fiirnaee. were worked off the s;mie crank-axle. 

John Pethoriek, of Oamborne, has related that he 
remembers this first English steam-coach passing alnnir 
tlie ]rineipal street of his native town. Considerable 
difficulty was experienced in keeping up the pressure of 
steam ; but when there was pressure enough, Trevithick 
would call upon the people to "jump up," so as to 
create a load upon the engine. It was soon covered 

with men attracted bv the novelty, nor did their num- 

i/ t/ 

her seem to make any difference in the speed of the 
engine so long as the steam could be kept up ; but it 
was constantly running short, and the horizontal bel- 
lows failed to keep it up. 

This road-locomotive of Trevithick' s was one of the 
iii'st high-pressure working engines constructed on the 
principle of moving a piston by the elasticity of steam 
against the pressure only of the atmosphere. Such an 
engine had been described by Leopold, though in his 
apparatus it was proposed that the pressure should act 
only on one side of the piston. In Trevithick's engine 
the piston was not only raised, but was also depressed 
by the action of the steam, being in this respect an 
entirely original invention, and of great merit. The 
steam was admitted from the boiler under the piston 
moving in a cylinder, impelling it upward. When the 
motion had reached its limit, the communication between 
the piston and the under side was shut off, and the 
steam allowed to escape into the atmosphere. A pas- 
sage being then opened between the boiler and the 
upper side of the piston, which was pressed down- 
wards, the steam was again allowed to escape as before. 


Thus the power of the engine was equal to the difference 
between the pressure of the atmosphere and the elas- 
ticity of the steam in the boiler. 

This steam-carriage excited considerable interest in 
the remote district near the Land's End where it had 
been erected. Being so far removed from the great 
movements and enterprise of the commercial world, 
Trevi thick and Vivian determined upon exhibiting their 
machine in the metropolis. They accordingly set out 

with it to Plymouth, whence it was conveyed by sea to 

/ / / 


The carriage safely reached the metropolis, and ex- 
cited much public interest. It also attracted the notice 
of scientific men, amongst others of Mr. Davies Gilbert 
and Sir Humphry Davy, both Cornishmeii like Trevi- 
tliick, who went to see the private performances of the 
engine, and were greatly pleased with it. Writing to 
a Cornish friend shortly after its arrival in town, Sir 
Humphry said : "I shall soon hope to hear that the 
roads of England are the haunts of Captain Trevithick's 
dragons a characteristic name." The machine was 
afterwards publicly exhibited in an enclosed piece of 
ground near Euston Square, where the London and 
North- Western Station now stands, and it dragged 
behind it a wheel-carriage full of passengers. On the 
second day of the performance, crowds flocked to see it ; 
but Trevithick, in one of his odd freaks, shut up the 
place, and shortly after removed the engine. It is, 
however, probable that the inventor came to the con- 
clusion that the state of the roads at that time was such 
as to preclude its coming into general use for purposes 
of ordinary traffic. 

While the steam-carriage was being exhibited, a 
gentleman was laying heavy wagers as to the weight 
which could be hauled by a single horse on the Wands- 
worth and Croydon iron tramway ; and the number 
and weight of waggons drawn by the horse were some- 



thing i-urpriMiii; 1 . Trevithick very probably put the 
two ihhi"> together the steam-horse ;m<l the mm-wav 


-Mini kept tin- performance in iinn<l when he pn>- 

d<-d t<> construct his second <>r railway locomotive. 
The idc;i \v;is not, however, entirely new to him ; I'm-, 
although hi* lirst engine had heen constructed with ;i 
vir\v to its employment upon common mads, tin- spcci- 
iic.-itioii ot'liis patent distinctly alludes to the application 
of his engine to travelling on railroads. Having hccn 
cmp]o\cl at the iron-works of Pen-y-darran, in Smith 
\Yale>. to civet ;i forge engine for tlie Company, a con- 
venient opportunity presented itself, on the completion 
of this work, for carrying' out his design of a loco- 
motive to haul the minerals along the Pen-y-darran 
tramwav. Such an engine was erected by him in 

* i/ 

1803, in the blacksmiths' shop at the Company's works, 
and it was finished and ready for trial before the end 


of the year. 


The boiler of this second engine was cylindrical in 

C2 * 

form, flat at the ends, and made of wrought iron. 1 The 
furnace and flue were inside the boiler, within which 
the single cylinder, eight inches in diameter and four 
feet six inches stroke, was placed horizontally. As in 
the first engine, the motion of the wheels was produced 
by spur gear, to which was also added a fly-wheel on 
one side to secure a rotatory motion in the crank at the 


end of each stroke of the piston in the single cylinder. 
The waste steam was thrown into the chimney through 
a tube inserted into it at right angles; but it will be 
obvious that this arrangement was not calculated to 
produce any result in the way of a steam-blast in the 

It is not, however, quite clear that the boiler was of cast iron, as 

whether the "boiler of this engine was 
of wrought or cast iron. The state- 
ment that it was of wrought iron is 
made on the authority of Rees Jones, 
who worked at the fitting o f the en- 
gine under Trevithick, and was alive 
in 1858. But other accounts state 

that of the next engine built after 
Trevithick's patent certainly was. We 
allude to the engine erected by Whin- 
field of Gateshead, for Mr. Blackett of 
Wylam, in 1804, after Trevithick's 
own plans. 




chimney. In fact, the waste steam seems to have been 


turned into the chimney in order to get rid of the nui- 
sance caused by throwing the jet directly into the air. 
Trevithick was here hovering on the verge of a great 
discovery ; but that he was not aware of the action of 
the blast in contributing to increase the draught and 
thus quicken combustion, is clear from the fact that he 
employed bellows for this special purpose ; and at a 
much later date (1815) he took out a patent which 
included a method of urging the fire by means of 


At the first trial of this engine it succeeded in 
dragging after it several waggons, containing ten tons 
of bar-iron, at the rate of about five miles an hour. 
Eees Jones, who worked at the fitting of the engine 
and remembers its performances, says, " She was used 
for bringing down metal from the furnaces to the Old 
Forge. She worked very well ; but frequently, from 
her weight, broke the tram-plates and the hooks be- 
tween the trams. After working for some time in this 
way, she took a load of iron from Pen-y-darran down the 

G 2 



Kahili-road, upon which mad she was intended |. work. 

On tin- journey she lmkr a -Teat many of the tram- 

plalc-: and before reachiiiLr lli' 1 lasin she ran <>ll the 
mad. and was limiiirlit hark to IVii-y-darran ly horses, 

The ensrine was never after used as a locomotive. ' 

< * 

It -(.ins |.. have heen frit that unless tlir road were 

entirely iv.-onstrii.-icd so as to hear tlir beavy weight of 

thr locomotive 80 much greater tlian that of the tram- 
\va, 1o carry which llir original rails liad hmi 

O ' 

lai<l down- -ihr regular employmenl of Trevithicks 
liiirli-piv>smv train-riiLi-inr was altogether impracticable : 
and as the owners of the works were not prepared to 
incur the heavy cost of such reconstruction, it was 
determined to take the locomotive off the road, and use 
the engine for other purposes. It was accordingly dis- 
mounted i'mm its wheels, and fixed and usrd for some 
time after as a pumping-engine, for which purpose it 
was found well adapted. Trevithick himself seems from 
this time to have given up the locomotive as an im- 
practicable engine, and took no further steps to bring it 
into use. AVe find him, shortly after, engaged upon 
schemes of a more promising character, leaving the 
locomotive to take. care of itself, and no further progr< 
was made with it for several years. An imaginary dim'- 

/ ** 

culty seems to have tended, amongst other obstacles, to 
prevent its adoption and improvement. This was the 
idea that, if any heavy weight were placed behind the 
engine, the " grip ' or " bite ' of the smooth wheels of 
the locomotive upon the equally smooth iron rail must 
necessarily be so slight that the wheels would slip round 
upon the rail, and, consequently, that the machine 
would not make any progress. 2 Hence Trevithick, in 

1 Statement of Rees Jones to Mr. 
Menelaus, Dowlais Iron- works, made 
Oth September, 1858, and published 
in the 'Mining Journal.' 

2 The same fallacy seems long to 
have held its ground in France; for 

M. Granier tells us that some time 
after the first of George Stephenson's 
locomotives had been placed on the 
Liverpool and Manchester line, a model 
of one was exhibited before the Aca- 
demy. After it had been examined, 




his patent, provided that the periphery of the driving- 
wheels should be made rough by the projection of bolts 
or cross-grooves, so that the adhesion of the wheels to 
the road might be secured. 1 

Following up the presumed necessity for a more 
effectual adhesion between the wheels and the rails, 
Mr. Blenkinsop of Leeds, in 1811, took out a patent for 
a racked or tooth-rail laid along one side of the road, 
into which the toothed-wheel of his locomotive worked 
as pinions work into a rack. The boiler of his engine 
was supported by a carriage with four wheels without 
teeth, and rested immediately upon the axles. These 
wheels were entirely independent of the working parts 
of the engine, and therefore merely supported its weight 
upon the rails, the progress being effected by means of 
the cogged-wheel working into the cogged-rail. The 
engine had two cylinders instead of one, as in Trevi- 
t hick's engine. The invention of the double cylinder 

was due to Matthew Murrav, of Leeds, one of the best 


mechanical engineers of his time ; Mr. Blenkinsop, who 
was not himself a mechanic, having consulted him as to 
all the practical arrangements of his locomotive. The 
connecting-rods gave the motion to two pinions by 
cranks at right angles to each other ; these pinions 
communicating the motion to the wdieel which worked 
into the cogged-rail. 

Mr. Blenkinsop's engines began running on the rail- 
way extending from the Middleton collieries to the 
town of Leeds, a distance of about three miles and a 
half, on the 12th of August, 1812. They continued for 

a member of that learned body said, 
smiling, " Yes, this is all very inge- 
nious, no doubt, but unfortunately the 
machine will never move ; it is too 
heavy. The wheels will turn round 
and round in the same place." 

1 The following is the description 
given in the specification of the pa- 
tent : " It is to be noticed that we do 

occasionally, or in certain cases, make 
the external periphery of the wheels 
uneven, by projecting heads of nails, 
or bolts, or cross groves, or fittings to 
railroads, when required ; and that in 
case of hard pull we cause a lever, 
bolt, or claw to project through the 
rim of one or both of the said wheels, 
so as to take hold of the ground." 


many years to In- <me of Ilie principal curiosities of the 
place, ;nnl were visited ly strangers from nil purls. In 

Hi'- year is hi, |],e (inm<| Duke Nicholas (afterwards 
Emperor) of Russia observed tin- working of I>lenkin- 
sop's locomotive with curious interest and expressions of 
no slighl admiration. AIL engine draped behind it as 
many as thirty coal-waggons at a spinal of about three 
miles and a quarter per hour. These engines continue<l 
tor many years to be thus employed in the haulage of 
coal, and fun i is) MM I the first instance of the regular em- 
ployment of locomotive power for commercial purposes. 
The Messrs. Chapman, of Newcastle, in 1812, endea- 
voured to overcome the same fictitious difficultv of the 


want of adhesion between the wheel and the rail, by 
patenting a locomotive to work along the road bv 
means of a chain stretched from one end of it to the 
other. This chain was passed once round a grooved 
barrel-wheel under the centre of the engine: so that, 
when the wheel turned, the locomotive, as it were, 
dragged itself along the railway. An engine, con- 
structed after this plan, was tried on the Heaton Rail- 
way, near Newcastle ; but it was so clumsy in its 
action, there was so great a loss of power by friction, 
and it was found to be so expensive and difficult to keep 
in repair, that it was very soon abandoned. Another 
remarkable expedient was adopted by Mr. Brunton, of 
the Butterley Works, Derbyshire, who, in 1813, patented 
his Mechanical Traveller, to go upon legs, working 
alternately like those of a horse. 1 But this engine never 
got beyond the experimental state, for, at its very first 
trial, the driver, to make sure of a good start, over- 
loaded the safety-valve, when the boiler burst, and 

The specification of patent (Xo. specification it is provided that the 

i'.TOO) is dated the 22nd May, 1813. power of the engine is to be assisted 

Other machines, with legs, were pa- by a horizontal windmill; ~ and the 

tented in the folio whig year by Lewis four pushers, or legs, are to be caused 

GompcTtz and by Thomas Tindull to come successively in contact with 

(Nos. 3804 and 3817). In Tindall's the ground, and impel the carriage ! 


killed a number of the bystanders, wounding many 
more. These, and other contrivances with the same 
object, projected about the same time, show that inven- 
tion was actively at work, and that many minds were 
now anxiously labouring to solve the important problem 
of locomotive traction upon railways. 

But the difficulties contended with by these early 
inventors, and the step-by-step progress which they 
made, will probably be best illustrated by the experi- 
ments conducted by Mr. Blackett, of Wylam, which are 
all the more worthy of notice, as the persevering efforts 
of this gentleman in a great measure paved the way for 
the labours of George Stephenson, who, shortly after, 
took up the question of steam locomotion,, and Drought 
it to a successful issue. 

The Wylam waggon-way is one of the oldest in the 
north of England. Down to the year 1807 it was 
formed of wooden spars or rails, laid down between the 
colliery at Wylam- -where old Eobert Stephenson had 
worked- -and the village of Lemington, some four miles 
down the Tyne, where the coals were loaded into keels 
or barges, and floated down the river past Newcastle, to 
be shipped for the London market. Each chaldron- 
waggon was originally drawn by one horse, with a 
man to each horse and waggon. The rate at which 
the waggons were hauled was so slow that only two 
journeys were performed by each man and horse in one 
day, and three on the day following, the driver being 
allowed seveiipence for each journey. This primitive 
waggon-way passed, as before stated, close in front of 
the cottage in which George Stephenson was born ; and 
one of the earliest sights which met his infant eyes was 
this wooden tramroad worked by horses. 

Mr. Blackett was the first colliery owner in the North 
who took an active interest in the locomotive. Having 
formed the acquaintance of Trevithick in London, and 
inspected the performances of his engine, he determined 



t<> iv|n-at tin- Pen-y-darran '\|>rniiu'nt up<>n tin- Wyiam 
waggon-way, !!< accordingly obtained from Tiwi- 

lliick. ill Ortolirl 1 . lSOl,a |>l;ili nf Ills r||<rilir. provided 

with "friction-wheels," and employed Mr. Jolm \Vhin- 
lidd. <>!' Pipewellgate, Gateshead, to construct it at his 
toimdrv there; Tin- m-riiir was constructed und<T 


tin- superintendence <>!' our Jolm Steele, 1 an ingenious 

mechanic, who had been in Wales, and worked under 
Trcvitliick in fitting thr engineal IVn-y-darran. AVlien 
the (iatrslicad locomotive was finished, a temporary way 
was laid down in the works, on which it was run back- 
wards and forwards many times. For some reason or 
other, however- -it is said because the engine was deemed 
too liirht for drawing the coal-trains it never left the 

o o 

works, but was dismounted from the wheels, and set 
t< bl< )w the cupola of the foundry, in which service it 
was employed for many years. 

Several years elapsed before Mr. Blackett took any 

t/ */ 

further steps to carry out" his idea. The final abandon- 
ment of Trevitliick's locomotive at Pen-y-darran perhaps 
contributed to deter him from proceeding further ; but 
he had the wooden tramway taken up in 1808, and a 
plate-way of cast-iron laid down instead- -a single line 

1 John Steele was one of the many 
born mechanics" of the Xorthum- 
bfrland district. Wla-u a boy -at 
Colliery l>ykcs, his native ]>lacr, he- 
was noted for his " turn lor machi- 
nery." He used to take his play- 
i'cll<>\vs home to see and admire his 
imitations of ]>it-eirj;ines. While a 
mere youth he lost his leg by an acci- 
dent; and tlin>:- \vho remember him 
at Whinfield's speak of his hopping 
about the locomotive, of which he was 
very proud, upon his wooden leg. It 
was a great disappointment to him 
when Mr. Blackett refused to take the 
engine. One day he took a friend to 
look at it when reduced to its degraded 
office of blowing the cupola bellows ; 
and, referring to the cause- of its rejec- 
tion, he observed that he was certain 

it would succeed, if made suffi- 
ciently heavy. " Our master," he 
continued, "will not be at the ex- 
pense of following ii up; but depend 
upon it the day will come when such 
an engine will be fairly tried, and then 
it will be found to answer." Steele 
was afterwards extensively employed 
by the British Government in raising 
sunken ships ; and later in life he 
established engine- works at Eouen, 
where he made marine-engines for the 
French Government. He was unfor- 
tunately killed by the explosion of an 
engine-boiler (with the safety-valve of 
which something had gone wrong), 
when upon an experimental trip with 
one of the steamers fitted up by him- 
self, and while on his way to England 
to visit his family near Newcastle. 


furnished with sidings to enable the laden waggons to 
pass the empty ones. The new iron road proved so 
much smoother than the old wooden one, that a single 
horse, instead of drawing one laden waggon, was now 
enabled to draw two, or even three waggons. 

Encouraged by the success of Mr. Blenkinsop's expe- 
riment, Mr. Blackett eventually determined to follow his 
example; and in 1812 he ordered a second engine, to 
work with a toothed driving wheel upon a rack-rail as 
at Leeds. This locomotive was constructed by Thomas 
AVaters, of Gateshead, under the superintendence of 
Jonathan Foster, Mr. Blackett's principal engine-wriglit. 
It was a combination of Trevithick's and Blenkinsop's 
engines ; but it was of a more awkward construction 
than either. The boiler was of cast-iron. The engine 
was provided with a single cylinder six inches in 
diameter, with a flywheel working at one side to carry 
the crank over the dead points. Jonathan Foster de- 
scribed it to the author in 1854, as " a strange machine, 
with lots of pumps, cog-wheels, and plugs, requiring 
constant attention while at work." The weight of the 
whole was about six tons. 

When finished, it was conveyed to Wylam on a 
waggon, and there mounted upon a wooden frame sup- 
ported by four pairs of wheels, which had been con- 
structed for its reception. A barrel of water, placed on 
another frame upon wheels, was attached to it as a 
tender. After a great deal of labour, the cumbrous 
machine was got upon the road. At first it would not 
move an inch. Its maker, Tommy Waters, became 
impatient, and at length enraged, and taking hold of the 
lever of the safety valve, declared in his desperation, 
that " either she or he should go." At length the 
machinery was set in motion, on which, as Jonathan 
Foster described to the author, " she flew all to pieces, 
and it was the biggest wonder i' the world that we 
were not all blewn up." The incompetent and useless 


engine was deelaivd lo l>c a failure; it was shortly after 
dismounted ;md sold; and .Mr. IMaekctfs praiseworthy 
efforts llms far proved in vain. 

lit- was still, however, desirous of testing the praeti- 
eahility of employing locomotive power in working the 
<-o;d down to Lemington, and lie determined on making 
yet another trial. He accordingly directed his engine- 
wriglit, Jonathan Foster, to proceed with tlie building 
of a third engine in the Wylam workshops. Tliis new 
Locomotive had a single eight-inch cylinder, was pro- 
vided with a flywheel like its predecessor, and the 
driving wheel was cogged on one side to enable it to 
travel in the rack-rail laid along the road. This engine 
proved more successful than the former one ; and it was 
found capable of dragging eight or nine loaded waggons, 
though at the rate of little more than a mile an hour, 
from the colliery to the shipping-place. It sometimes 
took six hours, as Jonathan Foster informed us, to 
perform the journey of five miles. Its weight was 
found too great for the road, and the cast-iron plates 
were constantly breaking. It was also very apt to get 
off the rack-rail, and then it stood still. The driver was 
one day asked how he got on ? " Get on ? ' said he, 
" we don't get on; we only get off!" On such occa- 
sions, horses had to be sent out to drag along the 
waggons as before, and others to haul the engine back 
to the workshops. It was constantly getting - out of 
order ; its plugs, pumps, or cranks, got wrong ; it was 
under repair as often as at work ; at length it became so 

cranky that the horses were usually sent out after it to 

i/ / 

drag it along when it gave up ; and the workmen 
generally declared it to be a " perfect plague." Mr. 
Blackett did not obtain credit amongst his neighbours 
for these experiments. Many laughed at his machines, 
regarding them only in the light of crotchets,- -fre- 
quently quoting the proverb of " a fool and his money." 
Others regarded them as absurd innovations on the 


established method of hauling coal ; and pronounced 
that they would " never answer." 

Notwithstanding, however, the comparative failure of 
this second locomotive, Mr. Blackett persevered with 
his experiments. He was zealously assisted by Jonathan 
Foster, the engine-wright, and William Hedley, the 
viewer of Wylam Colliery. The latter was a highly in- 
genious person, and proved of great use in carrying out 
the experiments to a successful issue. One of the chief 
causes of failure being the rack-rail, the idea occurred 
to him that it might be possible to secure sufficient 
adhesion between the wheel and the rail by the mere 
weight of the engine, and he proceeded to make a series 
of experiments for the purpose of determining this 
problem. He had a frame placed on four wheels, and 
fitted up with windlasses attached by gearing to the 
several wheels. The frame having been properly 
weighted, six men were set to work the windlasses ; 
when it was found that the adhesion of the smooth 
wheels on the smooth rails was quite sufficient to enable 
them to propel the machine without slipping. Having 
thus found the proportion which the power bore to the 
weight, he demonstrated by successive experiments that 
the weight of the engine would of itself produce sufficient 
adhesion to enable it to draw upon a smooth railroad the 
requisite number of waggons in all kinds of weather. 
And thus was the fallacy which had heretofore prevailed 
on this subject completely exploded, and it was satis- 
factorily proved that rack-rails, toothed wheels, endless 
chains, and legs, were alike unnecessary for the efficient 
traction of loaded waggons upon a moderately level road. 1 

From this time forward considerably less difficulty 
was experienced in working the coal trains upon the 
Wylam tramroad. At length the rack-rail was dis- 

1 Mr. Hedley took out a patent to secure his invention, dated the 13th 
March, 1813. Specification No. 3666. 




pensrd with. The rmid \v;is laid with henvier mils; 
tlif working of tin- <>M engine was improved ; ;uid ;i 

iM-w engine \\as shortly alter built and placed upon tin- 
road, Mill on eight wheels, driven !>v seven nn-k-wlirrls 
working inside them with ;i wrought - irOD boiler 

lln-oiiu'li which the lluu was ]--1iiriird so ;is hir-vly to 

increase tin- lir;itin,u- surface, ;md tlms irivr increased 
power to tlie engine. 1 Tlie following is n repiv>rni;ition 
of tliis iuipi-oved NVvlani engine. 


As may readily be imagined, the jets of steam from 
the piston, blowing off into the air at high pressure 
while the engine was in motion, caused considerable 
annoyance to horses passing along the Wylam road, at 

1 By the year 1825, the progress 
made on the Wylam railroad was thus 
described by Mr. Mackenzie in his 
'History of Northumberland:' "A 
stranger," said he, "is struck with 
surprise and astonishment on seeing; a 
locomotive engine moving majestically 
along the road at the rate ot' four or 

five miles an hour, drawing along 
from ten to fourteen loaded waggons, 
weighing about 21 2 tons; and his 
surprise is increased on witnessing the 
extraordinary facility with which the 
engine is managed. This invention is 
a noble triumph of science." 


that time a public highway. The nuisance was felt to 
be almost intolerable, and a neighbouring gentleman 
threatened to have it put down. To diminish the noise 
as much as possible, Mr. Blackett gave orders that so 
soon as any horse, or vehicle drawn by horses, came in 
sight, the locomotive was to be stopped, and the frightful 
blast of the engine thus suspended until the passing 
animals had got out of sight. Much interruption was 
caused to the working of the railway by this measure ; 
and it excited considerable dissatisfaction amongst the 
workmen. The following plan was adopted to abate 
the nuisance : a reservoir was provided immediately 
behind the chimney (as shown in the preceding cut) 
into which the w r aste steam was thrown after it had 
performed its office in the cylinder ; and from this 
reservoir, the steam gradually escaped into the atmos- 
phere without noise. This arrangement was devised 
with the express object of preventing a blast in the 
chimney, the value of which, as we shall subsequently 
find, was not detected until George Stephenson, adopt- 
ing it with a preconceived design and purpose, demon- 
strated its importance and value, as being, in fact, the 
very life-breath of the locomotive engine. 

While Mr. Blackett was thus experimenting and 
building locomotives at Wylam, George Stephenson 
was anxiously studying the same subject at Killing worth. 
He was no sooner appointed engine-wright of the 
collieries than his attention was directed to the means 
of more economically hauling the coal from the pits to 
the river side. We have seen that one of the first 
important improvements which he made, after being 
placed in charge of the colliery machinery, w r as to apply 
the surplus power of a pumping steam-engine, fixed 
underground, for the purpose of drawing the coals out 
of the deeper workings of the Killingworth mines,- -by 
which he succeeded in effecting a large reduction in 
the expenditure on manual and horse labour. 


Tin- COals, \\hrii l>n >u<_Hit ;il>ovr ground, li:nl next 
In- laboriously dm ;_:;: .! l.\- nir;ins of Imrx-s 1o the 

Chipping staiths on tin- T\ m-. several miles distant. 

Tin- :idoptinn .if ;i t mmn a< I. it is true, luid innli-d to 

facilitate their transit : nevertheless ihr haulairr was 
1>. Hi trilimis ami expensive. Witli ilic view of econo- 
mising lahoiir, Stephenson laid down inclined plai, 
wliri'c tin- natmv of tin- irnumd would admit of this 
expedient In-ill^ 1 adopted. Tims, a train of lull wair- 
pn> let down the incline by means of a rope running 
over wheels laid along the tramroad, the other end 
of which was attached to a train of empty waggons 
placed at the bottom of the parallel road on the same 
incline, dragged them up by the simple power of gravity. 
But this applied only to a comparatively small part of 
the road. An economical method of working 1 the coal 


trains, instead of by means of horses- -the keep of which 
was at that time very costly in consequence of the high 
price of corn,- A\as still a great desideratum; and the 
best practical minds in the collieries were actively 
eiipiLi'ed in the attempt to solve the problem. 

In the first place Stephenson resolved to make himself 
thoroughly acquainted with what had already been done. 
Mr. Blackett's engines were working daily at AVylam, 
past the cottage where he had been born; and thither 
he frequently went ] to inspect the improvements made 
bv Mr. Blackett from time to time both in. the locomotive 

and in the plate way along which it worked. Jonathan 

1 At the StqiLcnson 
iiK/ctinu' :it Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
October, 1858, Mr. Hugh Taylor, 
Chairman of the Northern r<>ul- 
o \vners, gave the following account 
of one of such visits made by Ste- 
phenson to Wylarn, in the company 
of Mr. Nicholas Wood and himself: 
"It was, I think, in 1812, that Mr. 
Stephenson and Mr. Wood came to 
nay house, then at Xewburn, and alter 
we had dined, we went and examined 
the locomotive then on Mr. Blacknt's 

-way. At that early date it 
went by a sort of cog-wheel; there 
was also something of a chain to it. 
There was no idea that the machine 
would be sufficiently adhesive to the 
rails by the action of its own weight; 
1 remember a man oin before 

that was after the chain was abro- 
ated and scatterin ashes on the 

rails, in order to give it adhesiveness, 
and two or three miles an hour was 
about the rate of progress." 


Foster informed us that, after one of these visits, 
Stephenson declared to him his conviction that a much 
more effective engine might be made, that should work 
more steadily and draw the load more effectively. 

He had also the advantage, about the same time, of 
seeing one of Blenkinsop's Leeds engines, which was 
placed on the tramway leading from the collieries of 
Kentoii and Coxlodge, on the 2nd of September, 1813. 
This locomotive drew sixteen chaldron waggons con- 
taining an aggregate weight of seventy tons, at the rate 
of about three miles an hour. George Stephenson and 
several of the Killing-worth men were amongst the 
crowd of spectators that day ; and after examining the 
engine and observing its performances, he observed to 
his companions, that " he thought he could make a 
better engine than that, to go upon legs." Probably he 
had heard of the invention of Bruiitoii, whose patent 
had by this time been published, and proved the subject 
of much curious speculation in the colliery districts. 
Certain it is, that, shortly after the inspection of the 
Coxlodge engine, he contemplated the construction of a 
new locomotive, which was to surpass all that had pre- 
ceded it. He observed that those engines which had 
been constructed up to this time, how r ever ingenious in 
their arrangements, had proved practical failures. Mr. 
Blackett's was as yet both clumsy and expensive. 
Chapman's had been removed from the Heaton tramway 
in 1812, and was regarded as a total failure. And the 
Bleiikinsop engine at Coxlodge was found very unsteady 
and costly in its working ; besides, it pulled the rails to 
pieces, the entire strain being upon the rack-rail on one 
side of the road. The boiler, however, having shortly 
blown up, there was an end of that engine ; and the 
colliery owners did not feel encouraged to try any 
further experiment. 

An efficient and economical working locomotive 
engine, therefore, still remained to be invented ; and to 


accomplish lliis (tl)jccl Mi 1 . Stephenson n<\v applied 

liiniM'lf'. I*!-!)!!!!!!^ I iv \vlial his predecessors had done, 

< i 

warned hv ilu-ir lii il u res ;unl encouraged lv their 

, t 

l>;irti;il successes, In- commenced liis labours. There 

was --till \\antinu' the in;iii \vli<> should accomplish lor 
the locomotive what James \Yatt h;id d<>nr for ihe 

steam-engine, ;md eomhine in a complete forju the 
separate plans <>t' others, embodying with them sndi 
original inventions and adaptations of his own as to 
eniiile him to the merit of inventing the working 
locomotive, in the same manner as James Watt is to be 
regarded as the inventor of the working condensing 
engine. This was the great work upon which George 
Stephensoii now entered, though probably without any 
adequate idea of the ultimate importance of his labours 
to society and civilization. 


He proceeded to bring the subject of constructing- a 
" Travelling Engine," as he then denominated the loco- 
motive, under the notice of the lessees of the Killing- 
worth Colliery, in the year 1813. Lord Eavensworth, 
the principal partner, had already formed a very 
favourable opinion of the new colliery engine-wright, 
from the improvements which he had effected in the 
colliery engines, both above and below ground ; and, 
after considering the matter, and hearing Stephenson's 
explanations, he authorised him to proceed with the con- 
struction of a locomotive,- -though his lordship was, by 
some, called a fool for advancing money for such a 
purpose. " The first locomotive that I made," said 
Mr. Stephenson, many years after, 1 when speaking of 
his early career at a public meeting in Newcastle, " was 
at Killingwortn Colliery, and with Lord Ravensworth's 
money. Yes ; Lord Ravensworth and partners were the 
first to entrust me, thirty-two years since, with money 

1 Speech at the opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Eaihvav, June 18, 


to make a locomotive engine. I said to my friends, 
there was no limit to the speed of such an engine, if 
the works could be made to stand." 

Our engine-wright had, however, many obstacles to 
encounter before he could get fairly to work with the 
erection of his locomotive. His chief difficulty was in 
finding workmen sufficiently skilled in mechanics, and 
in the use of tools, to follow his instructions and embody 
his designs in a practical shape. The tools then in use 
about the collieries were rude and clumsy ; and there 
were no such facilities as now exist for turning out 
machinery of an entirely new character. Stephenson 
was under the necessity of working with such men and 
tools as were at his command ; and he had in a great 
measure to train and instruct the workmen himself. 
The engine was built in the workshops at the West 
Moor, the leading mechanic being John Thirlwall, the 
colliery blacksmith, an excellent workman in his way, 
though quite new to the work now entrusted to him. 

In this first locomotive constructed at Killing-worth, 
Stephenson to some extent followed the plan of Blenkin- 
sop's engine. The wrought-iron boiler was cylindrical, 
eight feet in length and thirty-four inches in diameter, 
with an internal flue tube twenty inches wide passing 
through it. The engine had two vertical cylinders of 
eight inches diameter, and two feet stroke, let into the 
boiler, working the propelling gear with cross heads 
and connecting rods. The power of the two cylinders 
was combined by means of 
spurwheels, which commu- 
nicated the motive power to 
the wheels supporting the 
engine on the rail, instead of, 
as in Blenkinsop's engine, 
to cogwheels which acted on the cogged rail independent 
of the four supporting wheels. The engine thus worked 
upon what is termed the second motion. The chimney 

VOL. Ill, H 



\v;is of wrought iron, round which w;is a chamher ex- 
tending l>:ick t<> the feed-pumps, I'm 1 the purpose of 
heating the water previous to its injection into the 
hoiler. The eiiLrine had no springs whatever, ;m<l \v;is 
mounted <n a wooden frame supported on lour \vlirrls. 
In order, however, 1<> neutraKse MS much as possible lli< i 
jolts andshocks which such an engine would necessarily 
encounter from tlie obstacles Mud inequalities of the 
then very imperfect plateway, the water-barrel which 
served for a tender was fixed to the end of a lever and 
weighted, the other end of the lever being connected 
with the frame of the locomotive carriage. By this 
means the weight of the two was more equally dis- 
tributed, though the contrivance did not by any means 
compensate for the total absence of springs. 

The wheels of the locomotive were all smooth, Mr. 
Stephenson having satisfied himself by experiment that 
the adhesion betw r een the wheels of a loaded engine and 
the rail would be sufficient for the purpose of traction. 
Robert Stephenson informed us that his father caused a 
number of workmen to mount upon the wheels of a 
waggon moderately loaded, and throw their entire 
weight upon the spokes on one side, when he found that 
the waggon could thus be easily propelled forward 
without the wheels slipping. This, together with other 
experiments, satisfied him of the expediency of adopting 
smooth wheels on his engine, and it was so finished 

The engine was, after much labour and anxiety, and 
frequent alterations of parts, at length brought to com- 
pletion, having been about ten months in hand. It was 
placed upon the Killingworth Railway on the 25th of 
July, 1814 ; and its powers were tried on the same day. 
On an ascending gradient of 1 in 450, the engine 
succeeded in drawing after it eight loaded carriages of 
thirty tons' weight at about four miles an hour ; and 
for some time after it continued regularly at work. 


Although a considerable advance upon previous loco- 
motives, " Blutcher ' (as the engine was popularly 
called) was nevertheless a somewhat cumbrous and 
clumsy machine. The parts were huddled together. 
The boiler constituted the principal feature ; and being 
the foundation of the other parts, it was made to do 
duty not only as a generator of steam, but also as a basis 
for the fixings of the machinery and for the bearings of 
the wheels and axles. The want of springs was seriously 
felt ; and the progress of the engine was a succession of 
jolts, causing considerable derangement to the machinery. 
The mode of communicating the motive power to the 
wheels by means of the spur gear also caused frequent 
jerks, each cylinder alternately propelling or becoming 
propelled by the other, as the pressure of the one upon 
the wheels became greater or less than the pressure of 
the other ; and, when the teeth of the cogwheels became 
at all worn, a rattling noise was produced during the 
travelling of the engine. 

As the principal test of the success of the locomotive 
was its economy as compared with horse power, careful 
calculations were made with the view of ascertaining this 
important point. The result was, that it was found the 
working of the engine was at first barely economical ; 
and at the end of the year the steam power and the 
horse power were ascertained to be as nearly as possible 
upon a par in point of cost. The fate of the locomotive 
in a great measure depended on this very engine. Its 
speed was not beyond that of a horse's w^alk, and the 
heating surface presented to the fire being comparatively 
small, sufficient steam could not be raised to enable it to 
accomplish more on an average than about four miles 
an hour. The result was anything but decisive ; and 
the locomotive might have been condemned as useless, 
had not Mr. Stephenson at this juncture applied the 
steam-blast, and by its means carried his experiment to 
a triumphant issue. 

H 2 




The steam, after performiiiL: its duty in the cylinders, 
was a1 first al!o\\-el to escape into the open atmosphere 

with a lii>Miiir Masi. to the terror of In uses and cattle. 

h was complained of as a nuisance; and a neighbouring 

squire threatened to Coinmeiiee ;m action against the 
-. .Mirrv lessees unless it was put a stop to. But Mr. 
Stephenson's attention had ahvady heeii drawn to the 
circiimstaiiee of the much greater velocity with which 
the steam issued from the exit pipe compared with that 
at which the smoke escaped from the chimney of the 
engine. He then thought that, by conveying the 
eduction steam into the chimney by means of a small 
pipe after it had performed its office in the cylinders, 
and allowing it to escape in a vertical direction, its 
velocity would be imparted to the smoke from the fire, 
or to the ascending current of air in the chimney, 1 
thereby increasing the draft, and consequently the 
intensity of combustion in the furnace. 

The experiment was no sooner made than the power 
of the engine was at once more than doubled ; com- 
bustion was stimulated by the blast ; consequently the 
capability of the boiler to generate steam was greatly 
increased, and the effective power of the engine aug- 
mented in precisely the same proportion, without in any 
way adding to its weight. This simple but beautiful 
expedient was really fraught with the most important 
consequences to railway communication ; and it is not 
too much to say that the success of the locomotive 
depended upon its adoption. Without the steam-blast, 
by which the intensity of combustion, and the conse- 
quent evolution of steam, were maintained at their 
highest point, high rates of speed could not have been 
maintained, the advantages of the multitubular boiler 
(afterwards invented) could never have been fairly 

1 The subject of the Steam Blast, 
and the various claims which have 
made as to its invention, will U- 

found discussed at some length in the 
Appendix to this work. 


tested, and locomotives might still have been dragging 
themselves unwieldily along at little more than five or 
six miles an hour. 

The steam-blast had scarcely been adopted, with so 
decided a success, when Mr. Stephenson, observing the 
numerous defects in his engine, and profiting by the 
experience which he had already acquired, determined 
to construct a second engine, in which to embody his 
improvements in their best form. Careful and cautious 
observation of the working of his locomotive had con- 
vinced him that the complication arising out of the 
action of the two cylinders being combined by spur- 
wheels would prevent its coming into practical use. 
He accordingly directed his attention to an entire change 
in the construction and mechanical arrangements of the 
machine ; and in the following year, conjointly with 
Mr. Dodds, who provided the necessary funds, he took 
out a patent, dated' the 28th of February, 1815, 1 for an 
engine which combined in a remarkable degree the 
essential requisites of an economical locomotive ; that is 
to say, few parts, simplicity in their action, and direct- 
ness in the mode by which the power w^as communicated 
to the wheels supporting the engine. 

This locomotive, like the first, had two vertical 
cylinders, which communicated directly with each pair ol 
the four wheels that supported the engine, by means 
of a cross head and a pair of connecting rods. But, in 
attempting to establish a direct communication between 
the cylinders and the wheels that rolled upon the rails, 
considerable difficulties presented themselves. The ordi- 
nary joints could not be employed to unite the parts of 
the engine, which was a rigid mass, with the wheels 
rolling upon the irregular surface of the rails ; for it 
was evident that the two rails of the line of way- -more 
especially in those early days of imperfect construction 

Specification of patent, No. 3887. 


of tin- permanent n>ad could not always IK- maintained 

;it the same level, that lllf wheel :M one end of tin 1 

axle miii'lit lr depressed iiitoone part of Ihe line which 
had subsided, whilst the other wheel would In- com- 
paratively elevated; and. in sndi a position of the axle 
and wheel-, ii was olvions tliat a rigid communication 
bet wee n t IK- cross 1 icad and the wheels was impracticable. 

llciicc it became necessarv to form a joint at tlic top of 
tlic piston-ro<l where it united with tlic cross licnd. -. . 
as to permit tlic cross licadto preserve complete parallel- 
ism witli tlic axle of tlic wheels with which it was in 

In order to obtain that degree of flexibility combined 
with direct action, which was essential for ensuring 
power and avoiding needless friction and jars from 
irregularities in the road, Mr. Stephenson made use of 
the " ball and socket" joint for effecting a union between 
the ends of the cross heads where they united with the 
connecting rods, and between the ends of the connecting 
rods where they were united with the crank-pins attached 
to earh driving wheel. By this arrangement the paral- 
lelism between the cross head and the axle was at all 
times maintained and preserved, without producing any 
serious jar or friction on any part of the machine. 
Another important point was, to combine each pair of 
wheels by means of some simple mechanism instead of 
by the cogwheels which had formerly been used. And, 
with this object, Mr. Stephenson began by making in 
each axle cranks at right angles to each other, with rods 
communicating horizontally between them. 

A locomotive was accordingly constructed upon this 
plan in the year 1815, and it was found to answer 
extremely well. But at that period the mechanical 
skill of the country was not equal to the task of forging 
cranked axles of the soundness and strength necessary 
to stand the jars incident to locomotive work. Mr. 
Stephenson was accordingly compelled to fall back upon 


a substitute, which, although less simple and efficient, 
was within the mechanical capabilities of the workmen 
of that day, in respect of construction as well as repair. 
He adopted a chain which rolled over indented wheels 
placed on the centre of each axle, and was so arranged 
that the two pairs of wheels were effectually coupled and 
made to keep pace with each other. The chain, how- 
ever, after a few years' use, became stretched ; and then 
the engines were liable to irregularity in their working, 
especially in changing from working back to working 
forward again. Eventually the chain was laid aside, 
and the front and hind wheels were united by rods on 
the outside, instead of by rods and crank axles inside, as 
specified in the original patent. This expedient com- 
pletely answered the purpose required, without involving 
any expensive or difficult workmanship. 

Thus, in the year 1815, Mr. Stephenson, by dint of 
patient and persevering labour,- -by careful observation 
of the works of others, and never neglecting to avail 
himself of their suggestions,- -had succeeded in manu- 
facturing an engine which included the following 
important improvements on all previous attempts in the 
same direction :- -viz., simple and direct communication 
between the cylinders and the wheels rolling upon the 
rails ; joint adhesion of all the wheels, attained by the 
use of horizontal connecting rods ; and finally, a beautiful 
method of exciting the combustion of the fuel by 
employing the waste steam, which had formerly been 
allowed uselessly to escape into the air. Although 
many improvements in detail were afterwards introduced 
in the locomotive by Mr. Stephenson himself, as well as 
by his equally distinguished son, it is perhaps not too 
much to say that this engine, as a mechanical con- 
trivance, contained the germ of all that has since been 
effected. It may in fact be regarded as the type of the 
present locomotive engine. 



X OF THE " ( 1 KollDV " SAFKTY-L.\M 1'. 

EXPLOSIONS of lire-damp were unusually i're<]iient in 
tin- coal mines of Northumberland ;m<l Durham nl>oiit 
tin- time when George Stepliens<in was rn paired in 
the construction of his first locomotives. These explo- 
sions were often attended with fearful loss of life and 
dreadful suffering to the workpeople. Killingworth 
Colliery was not free from such deplorable calamities ; 
and during the time that Stephenson was employed as a 
brakesman at the West Moor, several "blasts' took 
place in the pit, by which many workmen were scorched 
and killed, and the owners of the colliery sustained 
heavy losses. One of the most serious of these accidents 
occurred in 1806, not long after he had been appointed 
brakesman, by which ten persons were killed. Stephen- 
son was working at the mouth of the pit at the time, 
and the circumstances connected with the accident made 
a deep impression on his mind. 1 

Another explosion took place in the same pit in 
1809, by which twelve persons lost their lives. The 
blast did not reach the shaft as in the former case; 
the unfortunate persons in the pit having been suf- 
focated by the after-damp. More calamitous still were 
the explosions which took place in neighbouring col- 
lieries ; one of the worst being that of 1812, in the 
Fellimg Pit, near Gateshead, a mine belonging to Mr. 
Brandling, by which no fewer than ninety men and 
boys were suffocated or burnt to death. And a similar 
accident occurred in the same pit in the year following, 
by which twenty-two men and boys perished. 

1 See evidence given by him before the Select Committee on Accidents in 
Mines, 26th June, 1835. 


It was natural that George Stephenson should devote 
his attention to the cause of these deplorable accidents, 
and to the means by which they might if possible be 
prevented. His daily occupation led him to think much 
and deeply on the subject. As engine-wright of a col- 
liery so extensive as that of Killingworth, where there 
were nearly 160 miles of gallery excavation, in which he 
personally superintended the working of inclined planes 
for the conveyance of the coal to the pit entrance, he 
was necessarily very often underground, and brought 
face to face with the dangers of fire-damp. From fissures 
in the roofs of the galleries, carburetted hydrogen gas 
was constantly flowing ; in some of the more dangerous 
places it might be heard escaping from the crevices of 
the coal with a hissing noise. Ventilation, firing, and 
all conceivable modes of drawing out the foul air had 
been adopted, and the more dangerous parts of the gal- 
leries were built up. Still the danger could not be 
wholly prevented. The miners must necessarily guide 
their steps through the extensive underground ways with 
lighted lamps or candles, the naked name of which, 
coming in contact with the inflammable air, daily ex- 
posed them and their fellow-workers in the pit to the 
risk of death in one of its most dreadful forms. 

One day, in the year 1814, a workman hurried into 
Stephenson' s cottage w^ith the startling information 
that the deepest main of the colliery was on fire ! He 
immediately hastened to the pit-head, about a hundred 
yards off, whither the women and children of the colliery 
were running, with wildness and terror depicted in every 
face. In an energetic voice Stephenson ordered the 
eiigineman to lower him down the shaft in the corve. 
There was danger, it might be death, before him, but 
he must go. As those about the pit-mouth saw him 
descend rapidly out of sight, and heard from the depths 
of the shaft the mingled cries of despair and agony 





THE PIT HEAD, WEST MOOR. [By R. P. Leitcti.] 

rising from the workpeople below, they gazed on the 
heroic man with breathless amazement. 

He was soon at the bottom, and in the midst of the 
men, who were paralysed at the danger which threatened 
the lives of all in the pit. Leaping from the corve on 
its touching the ground, he called out: "Are there six 
men among you who have courage to follow me ? If so, 
come, and we will put the fire out." The Killingworth 
pitmen had the most perfect confidence in their engine- 
wright, and they readily volunteered to follow him. 
Silence succeeded the frantic tumult of the previous 
minute, and the men set to work with a will. In every 
mine, bricks, mortar, and tools enough are at hand, 
and by Stephenson's direction the materials were forth- 
with carried to the required spot, where, in a very short 
time, a wall was raised at the entrance to the main, he 
himself taking the most active part in the work. The 
atmospheric air was by this means excluded, the fire 
was extinguished, the people were saved from death, 
and the mine was preserved. 

This anecdote of ^tephenson was related to the 
writer, near the pit-mouth, by one of the men, Kit 


Heppel, who had been present and helped to build up 
the brick wall by which the lire was stayed, though 
several workmen were suffocated. Heppel relates that, 
when down the pit some days after, seeking out the 
dead bodies, the cause of the accident was the subject 
of some conversation between himself and Stephenson, 
and' Heppel then asked him, " Can nothing be done 
to prevent such awful occurrences ? ' Stephenson 
replied that he thought something might be done. 
" Then," said Heppel, " the sooner you start the better ; 
for the price of coal-mining now is pitmen s lives" 

Fifty years since, many of the best pits were so full 
of the inflammable gas given forth by the coal, that 
they could not be worked without the greatest danger ; 
and for this reason some were altogether abandoned. 
The rudest possible methods were adopted of producing 
light sufficient to enable the pitmen to work by. The 
phosphorescence of decayed fish-skins was tried ; but this, 
though safe, was very inefficient. The most common 
method employed was what was called a steel mill, the 
notched wheel of which, being made to revolve against 
a flint, struck a succession of sparks, which scarcely 
served to do more than make the darkness visible. A 
boy carried the apparatus after the miner, working the 
wheel, and by the imperfect light thus given forth he 
plied his dangerous trade. Candles were only used in 
those parts of the pit where gas was not abundant. 
Under this rude system not more than one-third of the 
coal could be worked ; and two-thirds were left. 

AVhat the workmen, not less than the coal-owners, 
eagerly desired was, a lamp that should give forth suffi- 
cient light, without communicating flame to the inflam- 
mable gas which accumulated in certain parts of the 
pit. Something had already been attempted towards 
the invention of such a lamp by Dr. Clanny, of Sunder- 
land, who, in 1813, contrived an apparatus to which he 
gave air from the mine through water, by means of 


In-Ill. \\ This l;nn]> went out of itself in inflammable 
gas, It was found, however, too unwieldy i<> be used 
li\- the miners for ihe purp< of their work, and did 
oot come into general use. A committee of gentlemen 

was formed ;ii Siinderland to investigate tin- causes of 
the explosions, and !<> devise, if possible, some means <>l 
preventing them. Al the invitation of that Committee, 
Sir Ilumphrv Davy, then in the i'ull x.ciiilli of his ivpu- 

fcation,was requested to turn his attention to tin- subject. 

IK- accordingly visited ilic collieries near Newcastle on 


tlir '2 I th of August. 181."> ; and on flic '.Mli of November 
follow in--, lie read his celebrated paper " OIL tlie Fiiv- 
Danip of Coal Mines, and on Methods of lip'htin^ the 
Mine so as to })revent its Explosion," l>efore the Iloyal 
Society of London. 

But a hunihler though not less diligent and original 
thinker had been at work before him, and had already 
practically solved the problem of the Safety-Lamp. 
Stephen son Avas of course well aware of the anxictx 
which prevailed in the colliery districts as to the in- 
vention of a lamp which should give light enough for 
the miners to work by without exploding the fire-dam]). 
The painful incidents above described only served to 
quicken his eagerness to master the difficulty. 

For several years he had been engaged, in his own 
rude way, in making experiments w 7 ith the fire-damp in 
the Killingworth mine. The pitmen used to expostulate 
with him on these occasions, believing his experiments 
to be fraught with danger. One of the sinkers, called 
M'Crie, observing him holding up lighted candles to the 
windward of the " blower ' or fissure from which the 
inflammable gas escaped, entreated him to desist ; 1 >ut 
Stepheiison's answer was, that " he was busy with a 
plan by which he hoped to make his experiments useful 
for preserving men's lives." On these occasions the 
miners usually got out of the way before he lit the gas. 

In 1815, although he was very much occupied with 


the business of the collieries and the improvement of 
his locomotive engine, he was also busily engaged in 
making experiments upon inflammable gas in the Kil- 
ling worth pit. As he himself afterwards related to the 
Committee of the House of Commons which sat on the 
subject of Accidents in Mines in 1835, he imagined that 
if he could construct a lamp with a chimney at the 
top, so as to cause a strong current, it would not fire 
at the top of the chimney ; as the bmnt air would 
ascend with such a velocity as to prevent the inflam- 
mable air of the pit from descending towards the flame ; 
and such a lamp, he thought, might be taken into an 
explosive atmosphere without risk of exploding. 

Such was Stephenson's theory, when he proceeded to 
embody his idea of a miner's safety-lamp in a practical 
form. In the month of August, 1815, he requested his 
friend Nicholas Wood, the head viewer, to prepare a 
drawing of a lamp according to the description which 
he gave him. After several evenings' careful delibe- 
rations, the drawing was prepared, and it was shown to 
several of the head men about the works. " My first 
lamp," said Mr. Stephenson, describing it to the Com- 
mittee above referred to, " had a chimney at the top of 
the lamp, and a tube at the bottom, to admit the atmos- 
pheric air, or fire-damp and air, to feed the burner or 
combustion of the lamp. I was not aware of the precise 
quantity required to feed the combustion ; but to know 
what quantity was necessary, I had a slide at the bottom 
of the first tube in my lamp, to admit such a quantity 
of air as might eventually be found necessary to keep 
up the combustion." 

Accompanied by his friend Wood, Stephenson went 
into Newcastle, and ordered a lamp to be made accord- 
ing to his plan, by the Messrs. Hogg, tinmen, at the 
head of the Side a well-known street in Newcastle. 
At the same time he ordered a glass to be made for the 
lamp at the Northumberland Glass House, in the same 


town. Tin's l;ini|i was received from tin- makers on the 
'j I M of OctMlirr, and \v:is taken to K il I iii;j'\\ < >rl h tor the 
|iii-jM >se i >!' immei hal<- experiment. 

"I remember ihal evening ;is distinctly as it' it li:nl 

l>ecn lint yesterday," said Rohert Stephenson, describing 

the circumstances io the author in l s ">7. "Moodie 
came to our cottage about dusk. and asked, k if father 

ha. 1 p.i backyetwith the lamp?' ' Xo.' 'Then I'll 

\vail till In- comes,' said Moodie, k he can't be IOHL:' QOW.' 
In alioiit liali'-aii-liour, in came niv father, his lace all 


radiant. lie had the lamp with him! It was at once 
uncovered and shown to Moodie. Then it was filled 
with oil, trimmed, and lighted. All was ready, only 
the head viewer hadn't arrived. 'Run over to Benton 
for Xichol, Robert,' said my father to me, ' and ask him 
to come directly ; say we're going down the pit to try 
the lamp/ By this time it was quite dark; and off 1 
ran to bring Xicholas Wood. His house was at Benton, 
a 1 tout a mile off. There was a short cut through Benton 
Churchyard, but just as I was about to pass the wicket. 
I saw what I thought was a white figure moving about 
amongst the grave-stones. I took it for a ghost! 
My heart fluttered, and I was in a great fright, but to 
Xichol' s house I must get, so I made the circuit of the 
Churchyard ; and when I got round to the other side I 
looked, and lo ! the figure was still there. But what do 
you think it was ? Only the grave-digger, plying his 
\v< >rk at that late hour by the light of his lanthorn set 
upon one of the gravestones ! I found Wood at home, 
and in a few minutes he was mounted and off to my 
father's. When I got back, I was told they had just 
left- -it was then about eleven- -and gone down the 
shaft to try the lamp in one of the most dangerous parts 
of the mine." 

Arrived at the bottom of the shaft with the lamp, the 
party directed their steps towards one of the foulest 
galleries in the pit, where the explosive gas was issuing 


through a blower in the roof of the mine with a loud 
hissing noise. By erecting some deal boarding round 
that part of the gallery into which the gas was escaping, 
the air w^as thus made more foul for the purpose of the 
experiment. After waiting about an hour, Moodie, 
whose practical experience of fire-damp in pits was 
greater than that of either Stephenson or Wood, was 
requested to go into the place which had thus been made 
foul ; and, having done so, he returned, and told them 
that the smell of the air was such, that if a lighted 
candle were now introduced, an explosion must in- 
evitably take place. He cautioned Stephenson as to the 
danger both to themselves and to the pit, if the gas took 
fire. But Stephenson declared his confidence in the 
safety of his lamp, and, having lit the w r ick, he boldly 
proceeded with it towards the explosive air. The others, 
more timid and doubtful, hung back when they came 
within hearing of the blower ; and apprehensive of the 
danger, they retired into a safe place, out of sight of the 
lamp, which gradually disappeared with its bearer in 
the recesses of the mine. It was a critical moment ; and 
the danger was such as would have tried the stoutest 
heart. Stephenson advancing alone, with his yet un- 
tried lamp, in the depths of those underground workings, 
-calmly venturing his life in the determination to 
discover a mode by which the lives of many might be 
saved, and death disarmed in these fatal caverns, pre- 
sented an example of intrepid nerve and manly courage, 
more noble even than that which, in the excitement of 
battle and the collective impetuosity of a charge, carries 
a man up to the cannon's mouth. 

Advancing to the place of danger, and entering 
within the fouled air, his lighted lamp in hand, Ste- 
phenson held it firmly out, in the full current of the 
blower, and within a few inches of its mouth ! Thus 
exposed, the flame of the lamp at first increased, then 
flickered, and then went out ; but there was no explo- 


of the ir;i-. Returning 1<> his companions, who 

were still ;il M distance, he told them what had occurred. 

Having now acquired somewhal more confidence, they 

advanced with him to M point tV<>iu which they could 
observe him repeat his experiment, but still at M safe 
distMiicc. r rhcy SM\V iliMt when the lighted IMIII}) was 
held within the explosive mixture, there was M irreat 
flame; tlie lamp was almost full of fire; ;nid then it 
smothered out. A pi in returning to his companions, lie 
relighted tlie lamp. Mini repeated the experiment. This 
he did severMl times, with the same result. At length 
\Vood and Moodie ventured to advance close to the 
fouled part of the pit ; and, in making some of the later 
trials, Mr. Wood himself held up the lighted lamp to 
the blower. Such was the result of the first experi- 
ments with the first practical Miners Safety-Lamp ; and 
such the daring resolution of its inventor in testing its 

Before leaving the pit, Stephenson expressed his 
opinion that, by an alteration of the lamp, which he 
then contemplated, he could make it burn better. This 
was by a change in the slide through which the air was 
admitted into the lower part of the lamp, under tlie 
flame. After making some experiments on the air 
collected at the blower, bv means of bladders which 

7 t. 

were mounted with tubes of various diameters, he satis- 
fied himself that, when the tube was reduced to a 
certain diameter, the explosion would not pass through ; 
and he fashioned his slide accordingly, reducing the 
diameter of the tube until he conceived it was quite 
sife. In the course of about a fortnight the experi- 
ments were repeated in the pit, in a place purposely 
made foul as before. On this occasion a larger number 
of persons ventured to witness the experiments, which 
again proved successful. The lamp was not yet, how- 
ever, so efficient as the inventor desired. It required, 
he observed, to be kept very steady when burning in 


the inflammable gas, otherwise it was liable to go out, 
in consequence, as he imagined, of the contact of the 
burnt air (as he then called it), or azotic gas, which 
lodged round the exterior of the flame. If the lamp 
was moved backwards and forwards, the azote came in 
contact with the flame and extinguished it. " It struck 
me," said he, " that if I put more tubes in, I should dis- 
charge the poisonous matter that hung round the flame, 
by admitting the air to its exterior part." Although 
he had then no access to scientific works, nor inter- 
course with scientific men, nor anything that could 
assist him in his inquiries on the subject, besides his 
own indefatigable spirit of inquiry, he contrived a rude 
apparatus, by means of which he proceeded to test the 
explosive properties of the gas and the velocity of cur- 
rent (for this was the direction of his inquiries) necessary 
to enable the explosion to pass through tubes of dif- 
ferent diameters. In making these experiments in his 
humble cottage at the West Moor, Nicholas Wood and 
George's son Robert usually acted as his assistants, and 
some times the gentlemen of the neighbourhood --amongst 
others William Brandling and Matthew Bell, interested 
in coal-mining attended as spectators. One who was 
present on such an occasion remembers that, when an 
experiment was about to be performed, and all was 
ready, George called to Mr. Wood, who worked the 
stop-cocks of the gasometer, " Wise on [turn on] the 
hydrogen, Nichol ! ' 

These experiments were not performed without risk, 
for on one occasion the experimenting party had 
nearly blown off the roof of the cottage. One of 
these " blows up ' was described by Stephenson him- 
self before the Committee on Accidents in Coal Mines 
in 1835 : "I made several experiments," said he, "as 
to the velocity required in tubes of different diame- 
ters, to prevent explosion from fire-damp. We made 
the mixtures in all proportions of light carburetted 


114 Till-: REV. Ml!. 'ITIINKI!. CHAP. VII. 

with at)ii<.-],licric ;iir in the receiver, ami we 
!<>im<l l>v tin- experiments that when a current of the 
nid>l explosive mixture that we could make was forced 
up ;i till..' four-tenths of ;ni inch in diameter, the neces- 
sary current was nine inches in a second to prevent its 
eomiim- down that tuLe. These experiments were re- 
peated several time-. We had two or three Mows up 
in making the experiments, hy the llame vvttinv; down 
into the receiver, though we Lad a piece of very fine 
wire-iraii/e put at the bottom of tlie ]>i]>e, between the 
receiver and the pipe through wliich we were forcing 
the current. In one of these experiments I was watch- 
ing the flame in the tuhe, my son was taking tlie vibra- 
tions of tlie pendulum of tlie clock, and Mr. Wood was 
attending to a'ive me tlie column of water as I called 

o o 

for it, to keep tlie current up to a certain point. As L 
saw tlie flame descending in tlie tube I called for more 

water, and Wood unfortunately turned tlie cock the 


wrong way; tlie current ceased, tlie flame went down 
tlie tube, and all our implements were blown to pieces, 
which at tlie time we were not very well able to 

Tlie explosion of this glass receiver, which Lad been 
borrowed from the stores of the PLilosopLical Society 
at Newcastle for tlie purpose of making tlie experi- 
ments, caused tlie greatest possible dismay among tin- 
party, and they dreaded to inform Mr. Turner, the 
Secretary, 1 of tlie calamity which Lad occurred. For- 


The early connexion of Robert 
with the Philosophical ami Literary 
Society of Newcastle had brought him 
into communication with tlie l!ev. 
William Turner, one of the secretaries 
of the institution. That gentleman 
\\as always ready to assist the in- 
quirer after knowledge, and took an 
early interest in the studious youth 
from Killing-worth, with whose father 
he also Ix.canir acquainted. Mr. 
Turner cheerfully helped them in 
their joint inquiries, and excited while 

he endeavoured to satisfy their thirst 
for scientific information. Towards 
the close of his life, Mr. Stephenson 
often spoke of the gratitude and 
esteem he felt towards his revered 
instructor. " Mr. Turner," he said, 
"was always ready to assist me with 
books, with instruments, and with 
counsel, gratuitously and cheerfully. 
He gave me the most valuable assist- 
ance and instruction, and to my dying 
day I can never forget the obligations 
whicli I owe to my venerable friend." 



innately none of the experimenters were injured by the 

Stephenson followed up those experiments by others 
of a similar kind, with the view of ascertaining whether 
ordinary flame would pass through tubes of a small 
diameter, and with this object he filed off the bar- 
rels of several small keys. Placing these together, 
he held them perpendicularly over a strong flame, and 
ascertained that it did not pass upward. This was a 
further proof to him of the soundness of the principle 
he was pursuing. 

In order to correct the defect of his first lamp, 
he accordingly resolved to alter it so as to admit 
the air to the flame by several tubes of reduced dia- 
meter, instead of by a single tube. He inferred that a 
sufficient quantity of air would thus be introduced into 
the lamp for the purposes of combustion, whilst the 
smallness of the apertures would still prevent the explo- 
sion passing downwards, at the same time that the 
" burnt air ' (the cause, in his opinion, of the lamp 
going out) would be more effectually dislodged. He 
accordingly took the lamp to the shop of Mr. Matthews, 
a tinman in Newcastle, and had it altered so that the 
air was admitted by three small tubes inserted in the 
bottom of the lamp, the openings of which were placed 
on the outside of the burner, instead of having (as in 

Mr. Turner's conduct towards George | tionise by his inventions and improve- 

Stephenson was all the more worthy ments the internal communications 

of admiration, because at that time of the civilised world. The circum- 

the object of his friendly instruction stance is encouraging to those who, 

and counsel occupied but the position 
of a comparatively obscure work- 
man, of no means or influence, who 

like Mr. Turner, are still daily devo- 
ting themselves with equal disinte- 
restedness to the education of the 

had become known to him only working classes in our schools and 

through, his anxious desire for inlor- 

mechanics' institutes. Though the 

mation on scientific subjects. He opportunity of lending a helping hand 

could little have dreamt that the ; to such men as George Stephenson 

object of his almost fatherly attention may but rarety occur, the labours of 

would achieve a reputation so distin- j such teachers are never without the 

miished as that which he afterwards : most valuable results, 
obtained, and that he would revolu- 

i 2 


the origin; 1 1 lamp) tin- our tnhe nj.niin^ directly under 
tlie Maine. 

This second or altered l:mi]> was tried in tlie I\illiii'_r- 
wortli pit <ni tin 1 Itli of November. ;in<l was found to better than the lir>t lain]), and to be perfectly 
sat.'. Hut as it did not yet come up entirely to the 
inventor's expectations, he proceeded to contrive' a third 
lump, in which lie proposed to surround the oil vessel 
with a inniiher of capillary tuhes. Then it struck him, 
that if lie cut off the middle of the tuhes, or made holes 

in metal plates, placed at a distance from each other, 
e.jual to the length of the tubes, the air would get in 
better, and the effect in preventing the communication 
of explosion would be the same. 

He was encouraged to persevere in the completion of 
ln's safety-lamp by the occurrence of several fatal acci- 
dents about this time in the Killing-worth pit. On the 
Dili of November a boy was killed by a blast in the 
A pit, at the very place where Stephenson had made 
the experiments with his first lam]); and, when told of 
the accident, he observed that if the boy had been pro- 
vided with his lamp, his life would have been saved. 
On the 20th of November he went over to Newcastle 
to order his third lamp from Mr. AYatson, a plumber in 
that town. Mr. Watson referred him to his clerk, 
Henry Smith, whom Stephenson invited to join him at 
a neighbouring public-house, where they might quietly 
talk over the matter together, and the plan of the new 
lamp could be finally settled. They adjourned to the 
" Newcastle Arms," near the present High Level Bridge, 
where they had some ale, and a design of the lamp was 
drawn in pencil upon a half-sheet of foolscap, with a 
rough specification subjoined. The sketch, when shown 
to us by Robert Stephenson some years since, still bore 
the marks of the ale. It was a very rude design, but 
sufficient to work from. It was immediately placed 
in the Viands of the workmen, finished in the course 








of a few days, and experimentally tested in the Killing- 
worth pit like the previous lamps, on the 30th of 
November, by which time neither Stephenson nor 
Wood had heard of Sir Humphry Davy's experiments, 
nor of the lamp which that gentleman proposed to 

An angry controversy afterwards took place as to 
the respective merits of George Stephenson and Sir 
Humphry Davy in respect of the invention of the safety- 
lamp. A committee was formed on both sides, and 
the facts were stated in various ways. It is perfectly 
clear, however, that Stephenson had ascertained the fact 
that flame will not pass through tubes of a certain dia- 
meter- -the principle on which the safety-lamp is con- 
structed- -before Sir Humphry Davy had formed any 
definite idea on the subject, or invented the model lamp 
afterwards exhibited by him before the Eoyal Society. 
Mr. Stephenson had actually constructed a lamp on 
such a principle, and proved its safety, before Sir 
Humphry had communicated his views to any indi- 


vidlial (Ml the subject; Mini 1'V the time that tlir firsl 

public iiiiiiiiniioii li;id been Driven of his discovery, 

Slephelisoli's sec.Mld I;illl|> had been ( '< M 1st H id ( '< 1 Illl'l 

tested in like manner in the Killingworth |ii. The 
#rsf was tried on the 2ls1 of ( )ctober, I s I :> ; the second 

\\.-is tried on tin- llli >!' November; Iml it was not nnlil 
the Dili of November lliiit Sir 1 Iniii|iliry D;ivy pre- 
sented liis first l;nii|> to tin 1 public. And l>y llir 30th 
of tlic same month, ;is we IIMVC seen, Stephensou had 
constructed ;md tcstt-d liis tlm-d safety-lamp. 

Slcplicnson's tlu-ory of the HMirnt nir* ;md tlir 
" dr; i u^'lit ' was no doubt wronu' ; hut his lamp was 
riii'ht, and that was the ^1'eat fact which mainlv eon- 

Q D v 

cenu'd him. Torricelli did not know the rationale of 
his tube, nor Otto Gurike that of Ms air-pump ; yet no 

one thinks of denying them the merit of their inven- 


tions on that account. The discoveries of Yolla and 
(Jalvani were in like manner independent of Iheory ; 
the greatest discoveries consisting in bringing to li^lit 
certain ^rand facts, on which theories are afterwards 
framed. Our inventor had been pursuing the Baconian 
method, though lie did not think of that, but of inventing 
a safe lamp, which he knew could only be done through 

the process of rej >ea ted ex J teriinelit. 1 le ex perimelltei 1 
upon the lire-damp at the blowers in the mine, and also 
by means of the apparatus which was blown up in his 
cottage, as nbove described by himself. Py experiment 
he distinctly ascertained that the explosion of fire-damp 
could not pass through small tubes; ;md lie also did 
what had not before been done by any inventor he 
constructed a lamp on this principle, and repeatedly 
proved its safety at the risk of his life. At the same 
time, there is no doubt that it was to Sir Humphry 
Davy that the merit belonged of having pointed out 
the true law on which the 1 safety-lamp is constructed. 

The subject of this important invention excited so 
much interest in the northern mining districts, and 



Mr. Slephenson's numerous friends considered his lamp 
so completely successful -lui viiiii; slood the tost of re- 
peated experiments- that they urged him to lu-ing* his 
invention hcforc tlie Philosophical ;md Literary Society 
of Newcastle, of some of whose apparatus ho hud 

v r, 

;iv;iiled himself in the course of liis experiments on lire- 
darn]). After much persuasion lie consented to do so, 
;iml a meeting was appointed for the purpose of receiv- 
ing his explanations, on the evening of the ."itli of 
December, 181"). Mi-. Stephenson was ;it tha.t time so 
diffident in manner and unpractised in speech, that he 
took with him his friend Mr. Nicholas \Vood, to act as 
his interpreter and expositor on the occasion. From 
eighty to a hundred of the most intelligent members of 
the. Society were present at the meeting, when Mr. 
Wood stood forward to expound the principles on 
which the lamp had been formed, and to describe the 
details of its construction. Several questions were put. 

120 CLAIMS OF DATS. AND sTi:i'lll-r\s< >X. CHAP. VII, 

to wllieh Ml 1 . Wood | >l'( MM < ( |( M 1 1o give replies to tile 

l>eM of his knowledge. I>nt Stephenson, who up to 
ilini nun 1 had stood behind Wood, screened from notiee, 
observing that tin- explanations ^iven were not <piite 
correct, could no longer control his reserve. Mini, standing 
forward, he proceeded in his strong Northumbrian 
dialed, to describe the lamp, down to its miiniie>i 

(let;iils. lie then prodin-ed several Madders full nf 
carburetted hydrogen, which he li;id collected from tlie 
Mowers in the Killingworth mine, MIK! proved the 
safety of liis liniip by numerous experiments with the 
gas, repeated in various ways; his earnest and impres- 
sive manner exciting in the minds of his auditors 
the liveliest interest both in the inventor and his 

Shortly after, Sir H. Davy's model lamp was re- 
ceived and exhibited to the coal-miners at Newcastle, 
on which occasion the observation was made by several 
gentlemen, " AVhy, it is the same as Stephenson' s !' 

Notwithstanding Stephenson' s claim to he regarded 
as the first inventor of the Tube Safety-lamp, his merits 
do not seem to have been generally recognised. Sir 
Humphry Davy carried off the eclat which attached to 
the discovery. What chance had the unknown workman 
of Killingworth with so distinguished a competitor ? 
The one was as yet but a colliery engine-wright, scarce 
raised above the manual-labour class, without chemical 
knowledge or literary culture, pursuing his experiments 
in obscurity, with a view only to usefulness ; the other 
was the scientific prodigy of his day, the pet of the 
Royal Society, the favourite of princes, the most brilliant 
of lecturers, and the most popular of philosophers. 

No small indignation was expressed by the friends of 
Sir Humphry Davy at this " presumption " on Stephen- 
son's part. The scientific class united to ignore him 
entirely in the matter. In 1831, Dr. Paris, in his ' Life 
of Sir Humphry Davy,' thus spoke of Stephenson, in 


connexion with his claims as the inventor of the safety- 
lamp :--" It will hereafter be scarcely believed that an 
invention so eminently scientific, and which could never 
have been derived but from the sterling treasury of 
science, should have been claimed on behalf of an 
engine-wright of Killingworth, of the name of Stephen- 
son a person not even possessing a knowledge of the 
elements of chemistry.' 


But Stephenson was really far above claiming for 
himself any invention not his own. He had already 
accomplished a far greater thing even than the making 
of a safety-lamp he had constructed a successful loco- 
motive, which was to be seen daily at work upon the 
Killingworth railway. By the improvements he had 
made in the engine, he might almost be said to have 
invented it ; but no one- -not even the philosophers- 
detected the significance of that wonderful machine. 
It excited no scientific interest, called forth no leading 
articles in the newspapers or the reviews, and formed 
the subject of no eloquent lectures at the Eoyal Society ; 
for railways were still comparatively unknown, and the 
mio'ht which slumbered in the locomotive was scar eel v 


even dreamt of. What railways were to become, rested 
in a great measure with that " engine-wright of Kil- 
lingworth, of the name of Stephenson," though he was 
scarcely known as yet beyond the bounds of his own 
As to the value of the invention of the safety-lamp, 
there could be no doubt ; and the colliery owners of 
Durham and Northumberland, to testify their sense of 
its importance, determined to present a testimonial to its 
inventor. The friends of Sir H. Davy met in August 
1816 to take steps for raising a subscription for the 
purpose. The advertised object of the meeting was to 
present him with a reward for " the invention of Ms 
safety-lamp." To this 110 objection could be taken ; 
for though the principle on which the safety-lamps of 

122 Till-: I'AVY TKsTIMoX! AL. CHAP. VII. 

ht-nson and DMVV were constructed was the same; 
:nnl although Stephenson's lamp was, unquestionably, the 

first successful lamp that had been constructed on such 
principle. MIK! proved to In- efficient, yd Sir II. Davy 
(lid invent n safety-lamp, no doubt <piite independenl j 
all tliMt Stephenson had done ; MIK! having directed his 

careful Mttrlltinli to tlic subject, Mild ( '1 llci< III 1 < '< 1 the tme 

theorv of c.\i)losion of carburetted hvdrov;en, lie was 

. f 

entitled to ;ill praise MIX! iv\v;inl for his labours. IJnt 

\vhcl) tile Hireling of COal-OWnerS proposed to raise M 

subscription for the j)iirj)ose of presenting SirH. Davy 
with a reward for "his invention of tin' safety-lain p." 
the c-asc was entirely altered; and Mr. Stephenson's 
friends then proceeded to assert his claims to be regarded 
MS its first inventor. 

Many meetings took place on the subject, and nnieh 
discussion ensued, the result of which was that a sum of 
2000/. was presented to Sir Humphry Davy as " the in- 
ventor of the safety-lam]);" but, at the same time, a 
purse of 100 guineas was voted to George Stephenson, 
in consideration of what he had done in the same direc- 
tion. This result was, however, very unsatisfactory to 
Stephenson, as well as to his friends; and Mr. Brand- 
ling, of Gosforth, suggested to him that, the subject 
being now fairly before the public, he should publish a 
statement of the facts on which his claim was founded. 

This was not at all in George Stephenson's line. He 
had never appeared in print before ; and it seemed to 
him to be a more formidable thing to write a letter for 
publication in " the papers ' than even to invent a 
safety-lamp or design a locomotive. However, he called 
to his aid his son Robert, set him down before a sheet of 
foolscap, and when all was ready, told him to " put down 
there just what I tell you/' The composition of this 
letter, as we were informed by the writer of it, occupied 
more evenings than one; and when it was at length 
finished, after many corrections, and fairly copied out, 


the father and son set out- -the latter dressed in his Sun- 
day's round jacket- -to lay the joint production hefore 
Mr. Brandling, at Gosforth House. Glancing over the 
letter, Mr. Brandling said, " George, this will not do." 
" It is all true, sir," was the reply. " That may he ; 
but it is badly written." Robert blushed, for he thought 
it was the penmanship that was called in question, and 
lie had written his very best. Mr. Brandling then 
requested his visitors to sit down while he put the letter 
in a more polished form, which he did, and it was 
shortly after published in the local journals. 

As the controversy continued for some time longer to 
be carried on in the Newcastle papers, Mr. Stephenson, 
in the year 1817, consented to publish the detailed 
plans, with descriptions, of the several safety-lamps 
which he had contrived for use in the Killingworth col- 
liery. The whole forms a pamphlet of only sixteen 
pages of letterpress. 1 

His friends, being fully satisfied of his claims to priority 
as the inventor of the safety-lamp used in the Killing- 
worth and other collieries, proceeded to hold a public 
meeting for the purpose of presenting him with a 
reward " for the valuable service he had thus rendered 
to mankind." Charles J. Brandling, Esq., occupied the 
chair ; and a series of resolutions were passed, of which 
the first and most important was as follows :--" That it 
is the opinion of this meeting that Mr. George Stephen- 
son, having discovered the fact that explosion of hydrogen 
gas will not pass through tubes and apertures of small 
dimensions, and having been the Jirst to apply that prin- 
ciple in the construction of a safety -lamp, is entitled to a 
public reward." 

A subscription was immediately commenced with this 
object, and a committee was formed, consisting of the 
Earl of Strathmore, 0. J. Brandling, and others. The 

1 ' A Description of the Safety- son, and now in use in the Killing- 
Lamp, invented by George Stephen- worth Colliery.' London, 1817. 


subscription list was headed by Lord Bavensworth, one 
of tin- partners in t In- K illinerworth colliery, who showed 

1 * 

his appreciation <>!' the merits of Stephenson by Divine; 
l(Hl ^uineas. (\ ,] . Brandling ;md partners Lrave ;t like 
sum. ;md Matthew Bell ;tud part ners, and John Brand- 
ling and partner^, u'avc fifty irmneas each. 

\Vheii the resolutions appeared in the newspapers, 
the scientific friends of Sir Humphry Davy in London 
met, and passed a series of counter-resolutions, which 
they published, declaring their opinion that Mr. Ste- 
phenson was not the author of the discovery of the fact 
that explosion of hydrogen will not pass through tuhes 

. < ' O 

and apertures of small dimensions, and that he was nut 
the first to apply that principle to the construction of a 
safety-lamp. To these counter-resolutions were attached 
the well-known names of Sir Joseph Banks, P.R.S., 
AVilliam Thomas Brancle, Charles Hatchett, AY. H. 
Wollaston, and Thomas Young. 

Mr. Stephenson' s friends then, to make assurance 
doubly sure, and with a view to set the question at rest, 
determined to take evidence in detail as to the date of 
discovery by George Stephenson of the fact in question, 
and its practical application by him in the formation 
and actual trial of his safety-lamp. The witnesses ex- 
amined were, George Stephenson himself, Mr. Nicholas 
Wood, and John Moodie, who had been present at the 
first trial of the lamp ; the several tinmen who made 
the lamps ; the secretary and other members of the 
Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, who 
were present at the exhibition of the third lamp ; and 
some of the workmen at Killingworth colliery, who had 
been witnesses of Mr. Stephenson' s experiments on fire- 
damp, made with the lamps at various periods, before 
Sir Humphry Davy's investigations had been heard 
of. This evidence was quite conclusive to the minds 
of the gentlemen who investigated the subject, and 
they published it in 1817 together with their Report, 


in which they declared that, " after a careful inquiry 
into the merits of the case, conducted, as they trust, in 
a spirit of fairness and moderation, they can perceive no 
satisfactory reason for changing their opinion." 

The Stephenson subscription, when collected, amounted 
to 1000/. Part of the money was devoted to the pur- 
chase of a silver tankard, which was presented to the 
inventor, together with the balance of the subscription, 
at a public dinner given in the Assembly Booms at 
Newcastle. 1 But what gave Stephenson even greater 
pleasure than the silver tankard and purse of sove- 
reigns was the gift of a silver watch, purchased by 
small subscriptions collected amongst the colliers them- 
selves, and presented to him by them as a token of their 
esteem and regard for him as a man, as well as of their 
gratitude for the perseverance and skill with which he 
had prosecuted his valuable and life-saving invention to 
a successful issue. To the last day of his life he spoke 
with pride of this gift as amongst the most valuable 
which he had ever received. 

However great the merits of Mr. Stephenson in con- 
nection with the invention of the tube safety-lamp, they 
cannot be regarded as detracting from the reputation of 
Sir Humphry Davy. His inquiries into the explosive 
properties of carburetted hydrogen gas were quite ori- 
ginal ; and his discovery of the fact that explosion will 
not pass through tubes of a certain diameter was made 
independently of all that Stephenson had done in veri- 
fication of the same fact. It even appears that Mr. 
Sniitlison Tennant and Dr. AYollastoii had observed the 

1 The tankard bore the following ' first to apply that principle in the 
inscription : " This piece of plate, | construction of a safety-lamp calcu- 
purchased with a part of the sum of lated for the preservation of human 
1000?., a subscription raised for the j life in situations formerly of the 
remuneration of Mr. GEORGE STE- j greatest danger, was presented to him 
PHENSON for having discovered the at a general meeting of the subscribers, 

fact that inflamed fire-damp will not 
pass through tubes and apertures of 
small dimensions, and having been the 

Charles John Brandling, Esq., in the 
Chair. January 12th, 1818." 


SHIM' tart several years IK' lore, though neitlier Stephen- 
son nor DMVV knew it while they were prosecuting their 
experiments. Sir Eumphry Davy's subsequenl modifi- 
cntion oi' the tube-lamp, by which, while diminishing 
tlir diameter, he in flic same ratio shortened the tubes 
without danger, and in the form of wire-gauze enveloped 
rlie safety-lamp by a multiplicity of tubes, was a beau- 
tiful application of the true theory which he had formed 
ii] ton the subject. 

The increased number of accidents which have occurred 
from explosions in coal mines since the general intro- 
duction of the Davy lamp, have led to considerable 
doubts as to its safety, and to inquiries as to the means 
by which it may be further improved ; for experience 
has shown that, under certain circumstances, the Davy 
lamp is nut safe. Mr. Stephensoii was of opinion that 
the modification of his own and Sir Humphry Davy's 
lamp, combining the glass cylinder with the wire- 
gauze, was the most secure ; at the same time it must be 
admitted that the Davy and the Greordy lamps alike 
failed to stand the severe tests to which they were sub- 
mitted by Dr. Pereira, before the Committee on Acci- 
dents in Mines. Indeed, Dr. Pereira did not hesitate to 
say, that when exposed to a current of explosive gas the 
Davy lamp is " decidedly unsafe," and that the experi- 
ments by which its safety had been " demonstrated ' in 
the lecture-room had proved entirely " fallacious." 

It is worthy of remark, that under circumstances 
in which the wire-gauze of the Davy lamp becomes red- 
hot from the high explosiveness of the gas, the Greordy 
lamp is extinguished ; and we cannot but think that 
this fact testifies to the decidedly superior safety of the 
Geordy. An accident occurred in the Oaks Colliery 
Pit at Barnsley, on the 20th of August, 1857, which 
strikingly exemplified the respective qualities of the 
lamps. A sudden outburst of gas took place from the 
floor of the mine, along a distance of fifty yards. For- 

CHAP. Vll. 



innately the men working in the pit at the time 
were all supplied with safety-lamps --the hewers with 
Stephenson's, and the burners with Davy's. Upon this 
occasion, the whole of the Stephenson's lamps, over a 
space of five hundred yards, were extinguished almost 
instantaneously ; whereas the Davy lamps were filled 
with fire, and became red-hot- -so much so, that several 
of the men usino* them had their hands burned by the 

o / 

gauze. Had a strong current of air been blowing 
through the gallery at the time, an explosion would most 
probably have taken place an accident which, it will 
be observed, could not, under such circumstances, occur 
from the use of the Geordy, which is immediately extin- 
guished as soon as the air becomes explosive. 1 

1 The accident above referred to 
was described in the ' Barnsley Times,' 
a copy of which, containing the ac- 
count, Robert Stephenson forwarded 
to the author, with the observation 
that " it is evidently written by a 
practical miner, and is, I think, worthy 
of record in my lather's Life." The 
superiority of the Stephenson lamp 
has since formed the subject of a 
lengthy communication which ap- 
peared in the ' Times ' of December 
24th, 1860, signed John Brown, C.E., 
of Barnsley, an able mining engineer, 
in reply to a previous communication 
urging the sufficiency of ventilation 
for keeping mines clear of explosive 


" I am well acquainted with col- 
lieries," says Mr. Brown, " that are 
liable to yield, without a moment's 
warning, such large quantities of ex- 
plosive gas that I am quite sure no 
amount of ventilation that can practi- 
cally, and not upon paper, be passed 
through the workings, would dilute 
the enormous quantities of this sud- 
denly issuing gas sufficiently to pre- 
vent it igniting at the first naked 
light witli which it came in contact. 

" I have known, in this district gas 
to issue from beneath the coal with 
such violence as to rip up the floor, 
which was almost as hard as stone, 
producing great fissures several feet in 

depth and many yards in length, the 
gas issuing therefrom with a noise like 
that produced by high-pressure steam 
escaping from a safety-valve. 

" At the period of this occurrence 
we had two kinds of safety-lamps in 
use in this pit viz., ' Davy ' and 
' Stephenson,' and the gas in going off 
to the upcast shaft had to pass great 
numbers of men, who were at work 
with both kinds of lamps, The whole 
of the ' Davy's ' became red-hot al- 
most instantaneously from the rapid 
ignition of the gas within the gauze ; 
the ' Stephenson's ' were as instantly 
self-extinguished from the same cause, 
it being the prominent qualification of 
these lamps that, in adddition to 
affording a somew r hat better light than 

cu < * 

the ' Davy ' lamp, they are suddenly 
extinguished when placed within a 
highly explosive atmosphere, so that 
no person can remain working and run 
the risk of his lamp becoming red-hot 
which, under such circumstances, 
would be the result with the ' Davy ' 

" The red-hot lamps were, most 
fortunately, all safely put out, al- 
though the men in many cases had 
their hands severely burned by the 
gauze; but from that time I fully 
resolved to adopt the exclusive use of 
the ' Stephenson ' lamps, and not ex- 
pose men to the fearful risk they must 



Xiehulas Wood, a u'ood judge, has said of tlic two 
inventions. " Priority li;is hreii elaimed t<>r eaeh of them 

I believe tlie inv< iitious to IK- parallel. l)\' different 
roads tliey liotli arrived at tin- same result. Stephenson's 
is the superior lamp. Davy's is safe- -Stephenson's is 

When the question of priority was under discussion 

at Mr. Lough's studio, in ls,~>7. Sir Matthew White 


Hidlev asked Robert Stephenson, who was present, tor 
his opinion on the suhject. His answer was, "I am not 
exactly the person to give an unbiassed opinion; but, 
ns you ask me frankly, I will as frankly say, that 
if George Stephenson had never lived, Sir Humphry 
Davy could and most probably would have invented 
the safety-lamp; but again, if Sir Humphry Davy had 
never lived, Greorge Stephenson certainly would have in- 
vented the safety-lamp, as I believe he did, independent 
of all that Sir Humphry Davy had ever done in the 

To this day, the Geordy lamp continues in regular 
use in the Killingworth Collieries ; and the Killingworth 
pitmen have expressed to the writer their decided pre- 
ference for it compared with the Davy. It is certainly 
a strong testimony in its favour, that no accident is 
known to have arisen from its use, since it was generally 
introduced into the Killingworth pits. 

run from working with ' Davy ' lamps 
during the probable recurrence of a 
similar event. 

" I may remark that the ' Stephen- 
son ' lamp was originally invented by 
the great George Stephenson, and in 
its present shape combines the merits 

of his discovery with that of Sir 
Humphry Davy constituting, to my 
mind, the safest lamp at present 
known, and I speak from the long use 
of many hundreds daily in various 




MR. STEPHENSON'S experiments on fire-damp, and his 
labours in connexion with the invention of the safety- 
lamp, occupied but a small portion of his time, which was 
necessarily devoted for the most part to the ordinary 
business of the colliery. From the day of his appoint- 
ment as engine-wright, one of the subjects which parti- 
cularly occupied his attention was the best practical 
method of winning and raising the coaL His friend, 
Nicholas Wood, has said of him that he was one of the 
first to introduce steam machinery underground with 
the latter object. Indeed, the Killingworth mines came 
to be regarded as the models of the district ; and when 
Mr. Robert Bald, the celebrated Scotch mining engineer, 
was requested by Dr. (afterwards Sir David) Brewster, 
to prepare the article ' Mine ' for the ' Edinburgh Ency- 
clopaedia,' he proceeded to Killingworth principally for 
the purpose of examining Stephenson's underground 
machinery. Mr. Bald has favoured us with an account 
of his visit made with this object in 1818, and he states 
that he was much struck with the novelty, as well as the 
remarkable efficiency of Stephenson's arrangements, espe- 
cially in regard to what is called the underdip working. 
" I found," he says, " that a mine had been commenced 
near the main pit bottom, and carried forward down 
the dip or slope of the coal, the rate of dip being about 
one in twelve ; and the coals were drawn from the dip 
to the pit-bottom by the steam machinery in a very 
rapid manner. The water which oozed from the upper 



winning was disposed of ;it the pit-bottom in a barrel 
or trunk, and was drawn up by the power of the engine 
whirh worked the oilier maehinery. Tlie dip at tlie 
time of my vi>it was nearly a mile in length, hut lias 
since been --really extended. As I was considerably 
tired hv mv wanderings in the galleries, when I arrived 
at tin- forehead of the dip, Mr. Stephenson said to me, 
'Yon may very speedily be carried up to the rise, hy 
lavinir yourself flat upon the coal-baskets,' which were 
laden ami ready to he taken up the incline. This I at 
once did, and was straightway wafted on the wings of 
fire to the bottom of the pit, from whence I was borne 
swiftly up to the light by the steam machinery on the 
pit-bead." The whole of the working arrangements 
seemed to Mr. Bald to be conducted in the most skilful 
and efficient manner, and reflected the highest credit on 
the colliery engineer. 

Besides attending to the underground arrangements, 
the improved transit of the coals aboveground from the 
pit-head to the shipping-place, demanded an increasing 
share of his attention. Every day's experience con- 
vinced him that the locomotive constructed by him 
after his patent of the year 1815, was far from per- 
fect ; though he continued to entertain confident hopes 
of its complete eventual success. He even went so 
far as to say that the locomotive would yet supersede 
every other traction-power for drawing heavy loads. 
Many still regarded his travelling engine as little better 
than a curious toy ; and some, shaking their heads, pre- 
dicted for it " a terrible blow-up some day." Neverthe- 
less, it was daily performing its work with regularity, 
dragging the coal-waggons between the colliery and the 
staiths, and saving the labour of many men and horses. 
There was not, however, so marked a saving in the 
expense of haulage as to induce the northern colliery 
masters to adopt locomotive power generally as a sub- 
stitute for horses. How it could be improved and 


rendered more efficient as well as economical, was never 
out of Stephenson's mind. He was fully conscious of 
the imperfections both in the road and the engine ; and 
gave himself no rest until he had brought the efficiency 
of both up to a higher point. Thus he worked his way 
inch by inch, slowly but surely ; and every step gained 
was made good as a basis for further improvements. 

At an early period of his labours, or about the time 
when he had completed his second locomotive, he began 
to direct his particular attention to the state of the road ; 
as he perceived that the extended use of the locomotive 
must necessarily depend in a great measure upon the 
perfection, solidity, continuity, and smoothness of the 
way along which the engine travelled. Even at that 
early period, he was in the habit of regarding the road 
and the locomotive as one machine, speaking of the rail 
and the wheel as " man and wife." 

All railways were at that time laid in a careless and 
loose manner, and great inequalities of level were 
allowed to occur without much attention being paid to 
repairs. The consequence was a great loss of power, 
as well as much wear and tear of the machinery, by 
the frequent jolts and blows of the wheels against the 
rails. His first object therefore was, to remove the 
inequalities produced by the imperfect junction between 
rail and rail. At that time (1816) the rails were made 
of cast iron, each rail being about three feet long ; and 
sufficient care was not taken to maintain the points of 
junction on the same level. The chairs, or cast-iron 
pedestals into which the rails were inserted, were flat at 
the bottom ; so that, whenever any disturbance took 
place in the stone blocks or sleepers supporting them, 
the flat base of the chair upon which the rails rested 
being tilted by unequal subsidence, the end of one rail 
became depressed, whilst that of the other was elevated. 
Hence constant jolts and shocks, the reaction of which 

K 2 





very nim caused tin- tVaeture of the rails, and occasion- 
ally tlllVNY tile ell-Mile IV tile mad. 

r r<> remedy iliis imperfection, Mr. Bteplienson devised 
a new ehair, with an entirely new mode of fixing 
the rails therein. Instead of adopting the butt-joint 
which had hitherto been used in all cast-iron rails, he 
adopted the //////-/"// joint, hy which means the rails 
extended a certain distance over each other at the end-, 
like a scarf-joint. These ends, instead of resting upon 

the flat chair, were 
made to rest upon the 
a j >ex of a curve form- 
ing the hot torn of the 
chair. The supports 
were also extended 
from three feet to 
three feet nine inches or four feet apart. These rails were 
accordingly substituted for the old cast-iron plates on the 
Killingworth Colliery Railway, and they were found 
to he a very great improvement upon the previous 
system, adding both to the efficiency of the horse-power 
(still used on the railway) and to the smooth action of 
the locomotive engine, hut more particularly increasing 
the efficiency of the latter. 


This improved form of the rail and chair was em- 
bodied in a patent taken out in the joint names of 
Mr. Losh, of Newcastle, iron - founder, and of Mr. 
Stephenson, bearing date the 30th of September, 1816. 
Mr. Losh being a wealthy, enterprising iron-manufac- 
turer, and having confidence in George Stephenson and 
his improvements, found the money for the purpose of 
taking out the patent, which, in those days, was a very 
costly as well as troublesome affair. 

The specification of the same patent also described 
various important improvements in the locomotive itself. 
The wheels of the engine were improved, being altered 


from cast to malleable iron, in whole or in part, by 
which they were made lighter as well as more durable 
and safe. But the most ingenious and original con- 
trivance embodied in this patent was the substitute for 
springs which Mr. Stephenson invented. He contrived 
that the steam generated in the boiler should perform 
this important office. The method by which this was 
effected displayed such genuine mechanical genius, that 
we would particularly call the reader's attention to the 
device, which was the more remarkable, as it was con- 
trived long before the possibility of steam locomotion 
had become an object of parliamentary inquiry or even 
of public interest. 

It has already been observed that up to, and indeed 
for some time after, the period of which we speak, there 
was no such class of skilled mechanics, nor were there 
any such machinery and tools in use, as are now at the 
disposal of all inventors and manufacturers. Although 
skilled workmen were in course of gradual training in a 
few of the larger manufacturing towns, they did not, at 
the date of Stephenson' s patent, exist in any consider- 
able numbers, nor was there then any class of mechanics 
capable of constructing springs of sufficient strength 
and elasticity to support locomotive engines of ten tons 

In order to avoid the dangers arising from the 
inequalities of the road, Mr. Stephenson so arranged 
the boiler of his new patent locomotive that it was 
supported upon the frame of the engine by four cylin- 
ders, which opened into the interior of the boiler. 
These cylinders were occupied by pistons with rods, 
which passed downwards and pressed upon the upper 
side of the axles. The cylinders opening into the 
interior of the boiler, allowed the pressure of steam to 
be applied to the upper side of the piston ; and the 
pressure being nearly equivalent to one-fourth of the 
weight of the engine, each axle, whatever might be its 

1?4 KXl'KliniKNTS oN FlIKTlnN. CHAP. VIII, 

position, li;id ;it nil times nearly tlio same amount of 
wi-iirlit i<> bear, and consequently iln- cniiiv weight was 
pretty equally distributed amongst the four wheels of 
the locomotive. Tims the four floating ]>istons Averc 
ingeniously nmdo to serve the purpose of springs in 
c(|!i;ili-iii^ the weight, ami in softening the jerks of the 
machine ; the weight of which, it must also be observed, 
liad been increased, on a road originally calculated to 
bear a considerably lighter description of carriage. This 
mode of supporting the engine remained in use until 
the progress of spring-making had so far advanced that 
steel springs could be manufactured of sufficient strength 
to bear the weight of locomotive engines. 

The result of the actual working of the new locomo- 
tive on the improved road amply justified the promises 
held forth in the specification. The traffic was con- 
ducted with greater regularity and economy, and the 
superiority of the engine, as compared with horse trac- 
tion, became still more marked. And it is a fact worthy 
of notice, that the identical engines constructed by 
Mr. Stephenson in 1816 are to this day to be seen in 
regular useful work upon the Killingworth Railway, 
conveying heavy coal-trains at the speed of between 
five and six miles an hour, probably as economically 
as any of the more perfect locomotives now in use. 

Mr. Stephenson' s endeavours having been attended 
with such marked success in the adaptation of locomotive 
power to railways, his attention was called by many of 
his friends, about the year 1818, to the application of 
steam to travelling on common roads. It was from this 
point, indeed, that the locomotive had first started, 
Trevithick's first engine having been constructed with 
this special object. Stephenson's friends having ob- 
served how far behind he had left the original projector 
of the locomotive in its application to railroads, perhaps 
naturally inferred that he would be equally successful 
in applying it to the purpose for which Trevithick and 





Vivian bad intended their first engine. But the accuracy 
with which he estimated the resistance to which loads were 
exposed on railways, arising from friction and gravity, 
led him at a very early stage to reject the idea of ever 
applying steam power economically to common road 
travelling. In October, 1818, he made a series of 
careful experiments in conjunction with Mr. Nicholas 
Wood, on the resistance to which carriages were ex- 
posed 011 railways, testing the results by means of a 
dynamometer of his own construction. The series of 
practical observations made by means of this instru- 
ment were interesting, as the first systematic attempt 
to determine the precise amount of resistance to car- 
riages moving along railways. It was then for the 
first time ascertained by experiment that the friction 
was a constant quantity at all velocities. Although 
this theory had long before been developed by Vince 
and Coulomb, and was well known to scientific men as an 
established truth, yet at the time when Mr. Stephenson 
made his experiments, the deductions of philosophers 


on the subjrri \vrre neither believed in nor acted upon 
by practical rugim-crs. 

lie ascertained that the resistances to traction were 
mainly three; the first being upon the axles of the 
carriages, the second, or rolling resistance, being between 
the cii en inference of the wheel and the surface of the 
rail, and the third being the resistance of gravity. The 
amount of friction and gravity he could accurately 
ascertain ; but the rolling resistance was a matter of 
greater difficulty, being subject to much variation. But 
he satisfied himself that it was so great when the surface 
presented to the wheel was of a rough character, that 
the idea of working steam carriages economically on com- 
mon roads was dismissed by him as entirely out of the 

*/ V 

question. Taking it as 10 Ibs. to a ton weight on a 

level railway, it became obvious to him that so small a 
i/ / 

rise as 1 in 100 would diminish the useful effort of a 
locomotive by upwards of 50 per cent. This was de- 
monstrated by repeated experiments, and the important 
fact, thus rooted in his mind, was never lost sight of 
in the course of his future railway career. 


It was owing in a great measure to these painstaking 
experiments that he early became convinced of the 
vital importance, in an economical point of view, of 
reducing the country through which a railway was 
intended to pass as nearly as possible to a level. Where, 
as in the first coal railways of Northumberland and Dur- 
ham, the load was nearly all one way,- -that is, from the 
colliery to the shipping-place,- -it was an advantage to 
have an inclination in that direction. The strain on the 
powers of the locomotive was thus diminished, and it was 
an easy matter for it to haul the empty waggons back to 
the colliery up even a pretty steep incline. But when the 
loads were both ways, it was obvious to him that the rail- 
road must be constructed as nearly as possible on a level. 1 

1 This subject will be found further moir on the Invention of the Railway 
discussed in Robert Stephenson's ' Me- ; Locomotive,' appended to this volume. 


These views, thus early entertained, originated in 
Mr. Stephenson's mind the peculiar character of rail- 
road works as distinguished from all other roads ; for, 
in railroads, he early contended that large sums would 
be wisely expended in perforating barriers of hills with 
long tunnels, and in raising the lower levels with the 
excess cut down from the adjacent high ground. In. 
proportion as these views forced themselves upon his 
mind and were corroborated by his daily experience, he 
became more and more convinced of the hopelessness of 
applying steam locomotion to common roads ; for every 
argument in favour of a level railway was, in his view, 
an argument against the rough and hilly course of a 
common road. 

At this day it is difficult to understand how the 
sagacious and strong common-sense views of Stephenson 
on this subject failed to force themselves sooner upon 
the minds of those who were persisting in their vain 
though ingenious attempts to apply locomotive power 
to ordinary roads. For a long time they continued to 
hold with obstinate perseverance to the belief that for 
steam purposes a soft road was better than a hard one- 
a road easily crushed better than one incapable of being 
crushed ; and they held to this after it had been de- 
monstrated in all parts of the mining districts, that iron 
tramways were better than paved roads. But the 
fallacy that iron was incapable of adhesion upon iron 
continued to prevail, and the projectors of steam- 
travelling on common roads only shared in the common 
belief. They still considered that roughness of surface 
was essential to produce " bite," especially in surmount- 
ing acclivities ; the truth being, that they confounded 
roughness of surface with tenacity of surface and contact 
of parts ; not perceiving that a yielding surface which 
would adapt itself to the tread of the wheel, could never 
become an unyielding surface to form a fulcrum for its 


Although Stephenson's locomotive engines were in 
daily use for inaiiv vearson the Killinerworth Kaihvav, 

< * 

thr\ rxrited comparatively little interest. They were 
no longer experimental, hut had become an established 

tractive power. The experience of years had proved 

that thev worked more steadilv, drew heavier loads, 

\j ' 

and were, on the whole, considerably more economical 


than horses. Nevertheless eight years passed before 
another locomotive railway was constructed and opened 
for the purposes of coal or other traffic. 

It is difficult to account for this early indifference on 


the part of the public to the merits of the greatest 
mechanical invention of the age. Steam carriages were 
exciting much interest, and numerous and repeated ex- 
periments were made with them. The improvements 
effected by M'Adam in the mode of constructing turn- 
pike-roads Avere the subject of frequent discussions in 
the legislature, on the grants of public money being 
proposed, which were from time to time made to him. 
Yet here at Killingworth, without the aid of a farthing 
of government money, a system of road locomotion had 
been in existence since 1814, which was destined, 
before many years, to revolutionise the internal commu- 
nications of England and of the world, but of which the 
English public and the English government as yet 
knew nothing. 

Mr. Stephenson had no means of bringing his im- 
portant invention prominently under the notice of the 
public. He himself knew well its importance, and he 
already anticipated its eventual general adoption ; but 
being an unlettered man, he could not give utterance to 
the thoughts which brooded within him on the subject. 
Killingworth Colliery lay far from London, the centre 
of scientific life in England. It was visited by no savans 
nor literary men, who might have succeeded in intro- 
ducing to notice the wonderful machine of Stephenson. 
Even the local chroniclers seem to have taken no notice 




of the Killingworth Railway. The "Puffing Billy' 
was doing its daily quota of hard work, and had long 
ceased to be a curiosity in the neighbourhood. Blen- 
kinsop's clumsier and less successful engine- -which has 
long since been disused, while Stephenson's Killingworth 
engines continue working to this day- -excited far more 
interest ; partly, perhaps, because it was close to the 
large town of Leeds, and used to be visited by strangers 
as one of the few objects of interest in that place. 
Blenkinsop was also an educated man, and was in com- 
munication with some of the most distinguished per- 
sonages of his clay upon the subject of his locomotive, 
which thus obtained considerable notoriety. 

The first engine constructed by Mr. Stephenson to 
order, after the Killingworth model, was made for the 
Duke of Portland in 1817, for use upon his tramroad, 
about ten miles long, extending from Kilmarnock to 
Troon, in Ayrshire. It was employed to haul the coals 
from the Duke's collieries along the line to Troon harbour. 
Its use was however discontinued in consequence of the 
frequent breakages of the cast-iron rails, by w r hich the 
working of the line was interrupted, and accordingly 
horses were again employed as before. 1 There seemed, 
indeed, to be so small a prospect of introducing the 
locomotive into general use, that Mr. Stephenson,- 
perhaps feeling the capabilities within him, again 
recurred to his old idea of emigrating to the United 
States. Before entering as sleeping partner in a small 
foundry at Forth Banks, Newcastle, managed by Mr. John 
Burr ell, he had thrown out the suggestion to the latter 
that it would be a good speculation for them to emigrate 
to North America, and introduce steamboats upon the 
great inland lakes there. The first steamers were then 

1 The iron wheels of this engine 
were afterwards removed, and replaced 
with wooden wheels, when it was again 
placed upon the road, and continued 

working until the year 1848. Its ori- 
ginal cost was 7501. It was broken 
up, and the materials were sold, rea- 
lizing only 


plying upon the Tynr before his eyes; and lie saw in 
them the <rerm of a gn-at revolution in navigation. It 
occurred to him that North America presented the finest 
field lor trying their wonderful powers. He was an 
engineer, and Mr. Bun-ell was an iron-founder ; and 
between them, he thought they might strike out a path 
to fortune in the mighty West. Fortunately, this idea 
remained a mere speculation so far as Mr. Stephenson 
was concerned ; and it was left to others to do what he 
had dreamt of achieving. After all his patient waiting, 
his skill, industry, and perseverance were at length 
about to bear fruit. 

In 1819, the owners of the Hetton Colliery, in the 
county of Durham, determined to have their waggon- 
wav altered to a locomotive railroad. The result of the 


working of the Killingworth Railway had been so satis- 
factory, that they resolved to adopt the same system. 
One reason why an experiment so long continued and so 
successful as that at Killingworth should have been so 
slow in producing results, perhaps was, that to lay down 
a railwav and furnish it with locomotives, or fixed 


engines where necessary, required a very large capital, 
beyond the means of ordinary coal-owners ; whilst the 
small amount of interest felt in railways by the general 
public, and the supposed impracticability of working 
them to a profit, as yet prevented the ordinary capitalists 
from venturing their money in the promotion of such 
undertakings. The Hetton Coal Company were, how- 
ever, possessed of adequate means ; and the local repu- 
tation of the Killingworth engine-wright pointed him 
out as the man best calculated to lay out their line, and 
superintend their works. They accordingly invited him 
to act as the engineer of the proposed railway. Being 
in the service of the Killingworth Company, Mr. Ste- 
phenson felt it necessary to obtain their permission to 
enter upon this new work. This was at once granted. 
The best feeling existed between him and his employers ; 


and they regarded it as a compliment that their colliery 
engineer should be selected for a work so important as 
the laying down of the Hetton Railway, which was to 
be the longest locomotive line that had, up to that time, 
been constructed in the neighbourhood. Mr. Stephenson 
accepted the appointment, his brother Robert acting as 
resident engineer and personally superintending the 
execution of the w r orks. 

The Hetton. Railway extended from the Hetton Col- 
liery, situated about two miles south of Houghton-le- 
Spring, in the county of Durham, to the shipping-places 
on the banks of the Wear, near Sundeiiand. Its length 
was about eight miles ; and in its course it crossed 
Warden Law, one of the highest hills in the district. 
The character of the country forbade the construction of 
a flat line, or one of comparatively easy gradients, 
except by the expenditure of a much larger capital than 
was placed at Mr. Stephenson' s command. Heavy 
works could not be executed ; it was, therefore, neces- 
sary to form the line with but little deviation from the 
natural conformation of the district which it traversed, 
and also to adapt the mechanical methods employed for 
its working to the character of the gradients, which in 
some places were necessarily heavy. 

Although Mr. Stephenson had, with every step made 
towards its increased utility, become more and more 
identified with the success of the locomotive engine, he 
did not allow his enthusiasm to carry him away into 
costly mistakes. He carefully drew the line between 
the cases in which the locomotive could be usefully em- 
ployed, and those in which stationary engines were 
calculated to be more economical. This led him, as in 
the instance of the Hetton Railway, to execute lines 
through and over rough countries, where gradients 
within the powers of the locomotive engine of that day 
could not be secured, employing in their stead stationary 
engines where locomotives were not practicable. In the 


present case, tliis course \v;is adopted l>y liini most suc- 
cessfully. On the original Ilcttoii line, tlicrc were five 
sell-acting inclines,--ihe lull waggons drawing tin- empty 
ones u]'. and two inclines worked hylixed reciprocating 
engines of sixty-horse po\ver each. Tlic locomotive 
travelling engine, or "the iron horse" as the people of 
the neighbourhood then sty KM I it, did the rest. On the 
day of the opening of the Hetton Railway, the 18th of 
November, 1822, crowds of spectators assembled from 
all parts to witness the first operations of this ingenious 
and powerful machinery, which was entirely successful. 
On that day five of Stephenson's locomotives were at 
work upon the railway, under the direction of his brother 
Robert ; and the first shipment of coal was then made 
by the Hetton Company, at their new staiths on the 
Wear. The speed at which the locomotives travelled 
was about four miles an hour, and each engine dragged 
after it a train of seventeen waggons, weighing about 
sixtv-four tons. 

While thus advancing step by step, attending to the 
business of the Killing-worth Colliery, and laying out 
railways in the neighbourhood, he was -carefully watch- 
ing over the education of his son. We have already 
seen that Robert was sent to school at Newcastle, and 
that he left it in the summer of 1819. He was then 
put apprentice to Mr. Nicholas Wood, the head viewer at 
Killingworth, to learn the business of the colliery ; and 
he served in that capacity for about three years, during 
which time he became familiar with most departments 
of underground work. The occupation was not unat- 
tended with peril, as the following incident wall show. 
Though the use of the Geordy lamp had become ge- 
neral in the Killingworth pits, and the workmen were 
bound, under a penalty of half-a-crown, not to use a 
naked candle, yet it was difficult to enforce the rule, 
and even the masters themselves occasionally broke it. 
One dav, Nicholas Wood the head viewer, Moodie the 

/ 7 


under viewer, and Robert Stephenson, were proceed- 
ing along one of the galleries, Wood with a naked 
candle in his hand, and Robert following him with 
a lamp. They came to a place where a fall of stones 
from the roof had taken place, on which Wood, who 
was first, proceeded to clamber over the stones, holding 
high the naked candle. He had nearly reached the 
summit of the heap, when the fire-damp, which luid 
accumulated in the hollow of the roof, exploded, and 
instantly the whole party were blown down, and the 
lights extinguished. They were a mile from the shaft, 
and quite in the dark. There was a rush of the 
workpeople from all quarters towards the shaft, for it 
was feared that the fire might extend to more dan- 
gerous parts of the pit, where if the gas had exploded, 
every soul in the mine must inevitably have perished. 
Robert Stephenson and Moodie, on the first impulse, ran 
back at full speed along the dark gallery leading to the 
shaft, coming into collision, on their way, with the hind 
quarters of a horse stunned by the explosion. When 
they had gone half-way, Moodie halted, and bethought 
him of Nicholas Wood. " Stop, laddie ! ' said he to 
Robert, " stop ; we maun gang back, and seek the 
raaister." So they retraced their steps. Happily, no 
further explosion had taken place. They found the 
master lying on the heap of stones, stunned and bruised, 
with his hands severely burnt. They then led him to 
the bottom of the shaft ; and he afterwards took care not 
to venture into the dangerous parts of the mine without 
the protection of a Geordy lamp. 

The time that Robert spent at Killingworth as viewer's 
apprentice was of advantage both to his father and him- 
self. The evenings were generally devoted to reading and 
study, the two from this time working together as friends 
and co-labourers. One who used to drop in at the cot- 
tage of an evening, well remembers the animated and 
eager discussions which on some occasions took place, 


more especially with ivfnvnrr t<> tlie growing powers of 

tlic loeoinotive engine. Tlic son was even more enthu- 

. i . 

siastic tliaii the father on this subject. Robert would 
surest alterations and improvements in tbis, that, and 
the other detail of the machine. His father, on the 
nmtrarv, would offer eyeiy possible objection, defending 
the exist inn 1 arrangements,- -proud, nevertheless, of his 

O O i ' 

soii's suggestions, and often warmed and excited by bis 
brilliant anticipations of the ultimate triumph of the 

These discussions probably had considerable influence 
in inducing Mr. Stephenson to take the next important 
step in the education of his son. Although Robert, who 
was only nineteen years of age, was doing well, and was 
certain at the expiration of his apprenticeship to rise to 
a higher position, his father was not satisfied with the 
amount of instruction which he had as yet given him. 
Remembering the disadvantages under which he had 
himself laboured in consequence of his ignorance of 
practical chemistry during his investigations connected 
with the safety-lamp, more especially with reference to 
the properties of gas, as well as in the course of his 
experiments with the object of improving the locomotive 
engine, he determined to furnish his son with as com- 
plete a scientific culture as his means would afford. He 
was also of opinion that a proper training in technical 
science was almost indispensable to success in the higher 
walks of the engineer's profession ; and he determined 
to give to his son that kind and degree of education 
which he so much desired for himself. He would thus, 
he knew, secure a hearty and generous co-w T orker in the 
elaboration of the great ideas now looming before him, 
and with their united practical and scientific knowledge 
he probably felt that they would be equal to any enter- 

He accordingly took Robert from his labours as uiider- 
viewer in the West Moor Pit, and, in the vear 1821, 

77 fc, 


sent him to the Edinburgh University, there being then 
no college in England accessible to persons of moderate 
means, for purposes of scientific culture. Robert was 
furnished with letters of introduction to several men of 
scientific eminence in Edinburgh ; his father's reputation 
in connexion with the safety-lamp being of service to 
him in this respect. He lodged in Drummond Street, 
in the immediate vicinity of the college, and attended 
the Chemical Lectures of Dr. Hope, the Natural Phi- 
losophy Lectures of Sir John Leslie, and the Natural 
History Class of Professor Jameson. He also devoted 
several evenings in each week to the study of practical 

Chemistrv under Dr. John Murray, himself one of the 

/ / 

numerous designers of a safety-lamp. The young student 
entered upon his studies with so keen a zest and interest, 
his mind was so ripe for the pursuit and reception of 
knowledge, and he prosecuted his labours with such 
laborious zeal, that it is not too much to say that in the 
six months' study to which his college career was 
limited, he acquired more real knowledge than the 
average of students do during their entire course. He 

O O 

took careful notes of all the lectures, which he copied 
out at night before he went to bed ; so that, when he 
returned to Killingworth, he might read them over to 
his father. He afterwards had the notes bound up, and 
placed in his library. Long years after, when conversing 
with Thomas Harrison, C.E., at his house in Gloucester 
Square, Mr. Stephensoii rose from his seat and took 
down a volume from the shelves. Mr. Harrison ob- 
served that the book was in MS., neatly written out. 
" What have we here ? ' he asked. The answer was- 
" When I went to college, I knew the difficulty my father 
had in collecting the funds to send me there. Before 
going I studied short-hand ; while at Edinburgh, I took 
down verbatim every lecture ; and in the evenings, before 
I went to bed, I transcribed those lectures word for 
word. You see the result in that range of books." 



was not without the pleasures of soeial inter- 
course either, during his st;iy ;il Edinburgh. Among 
the letters of introduction which IK- took with him was 
OIK- to Rohert IJald. the min ii ILL- engineer, which proved 
of much service to liim. "I remember Mr. Bald very 
well," lie s;ii<l on one occasion, when recounting his 
reminiscences of liis Edinburgh college life. "]! 

o ~ 

introduced me to Dr. Hope, Dr. Murray, and several 

of the distinguished men of the north. Bald was the 

Huddle of Scotland. He knew my father from having 
visited the pits at Killing-worth, with the ohject of 
describing the system of working them, in his article 
intended for the ' Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.' A strange 
adventure befel that article before it appeared in print. 
Bald was living at Alloa when he wrote it ; and when 
finished he sent it to Edinburgh by the hands of young 
Maxton, one of his nephews, whom he enjoined to take 
special care of it and deliver it safely into the hands of 
the editor. He took passage for Newhaven by one of 
the little steamers which then plied upon the Forth ; but 
on the voyage dow r n the Frith, she struck upon a rock 
nearly opposite Queensferry, and soon sunk. When the 
accident happened, Maxton' s whole concern was about 
his uncle's article. He durst not return to Alloa if he 
lost it, and he must not go on to Edinburgh without it. 
So he desperately clung to the chimney chains, with the 
paper parcel under his arm, while most of the other pas- 
sengers were washed away and drowned. And there he 
continued to cling, until rescued by some boatmen, parcel 
and all ; after which he made his way to Edinburgh, 
and the article duly appeared." 

Returning to the subject of his life in Edinburgh, 
Robert continued : " Besides taking me with him to the 
meetings of the Royal and other Societies, Mr. Bald intro- 
duced me to a very agreeable family, relatives of his own, 
at whose house I spent many pleasant evenings. It was 
there T met Jeannie M . She was a bonnie lass, 


and I, being young and susceptible, fairly fell in love with 
her. But, like most very early attachments, mine proved 
evanescent. Years passed, and I had all but forgotten 
Jeannie, when one day I received a letter from her, 
from which it appeared that she was in great distress 
through the ruin of her relatives. I sent her a sum of 
money, and continued to do so for several years ; but 
the last remittance not being acknowledged, I directed 
Sanderson, my solicitor, to make inquiries. I afterwards 
found that the money had "reached her at Portobello just 
as she was dying, and so, poor thing ! she had been 
unable to acknowledge it." 

One of the practical sciences in the study of which 
Robert Stephenson took special interest w r hile at Edin- 
burgh was that of geology. The situation of the city, 
in the midst of a district of highly interesting geological 
formation, easily accessible to pedestrians, is indeed most 
favourable to the pursuit of such a study ; and it was 
the practice of Professor Jameson frequently to head a 
band of his pupils, armed with hammers, chisels, and 
clinometers, and take them with him on a long ramble 
into the country, for the purpose of teaching them habits 
of observation and reading to them from the open book 
of Nature itself. The professor was habitually grave 
and taciturn, but on such occasions he would relax and 
even become genial. For his own special science he had 
an almost engrossing enthusiasm, which oil such occa- 
sions he did not fail to inspire into his pupils ; who thus 
not only got their knowledge in the pleasantest possible 
wav, but also fresh air and exercise in the midst of 


glorious scenery and in joyous company. At the close 
of this session, the professor took with him a select 
body of his pupils on an excursion along the Great 
Glen of the Highlands, in the line of the Caledonian 
Canal, and Robert formed one of the party. They 
passed under the shadow of Ben Nevis, examined the 
famous old sea-margins know T n as the " parallel roads of 

L 2 




(lien Roy. ' Mini extruded their j( >i i i'i K -v MS I'M r M s Inver- 


ness; ill* 1 profe^-or teaching tin- ynun^ men MS they 
unveiled how !> observe in M mountain country. \<>t 
IOIIL:' 1'ei'niv liis death, Roberl Stephenson spoke in glow- 
ing terms of tlic LiTcMt pleMsiire Mild benefit which lie IKK! 
deri\C'l iVoiu that interesting excursion. "I luve II-M- 
\-ellcd llir. Mini enjoyed niiicli." lie sMi'd ; k 'lmt tli;it 
delightful botanical ami geological tour I shall ne\'er 
t'or-'et ; Miid I MID just Mliout to start in the Titania toi- M 
trip round the rast coast of Scotland, returning south 
through the Caledonian Canal, to refresh myself with 
the recollection of that first and brightest tour of my 

Towards the end of the summer of 1822 the young 
student returned to Killing worth to re-enter upon the 
active business of life. The six months' study had COM 

his father SO/., a considerable sum to him in those davs ; 


but he was amply repaid by the sound scientific culture 
which his son had acquired, and the evidence of ability 
and industry which he was enabled to exhibit in the 
prize for mathematics which he had won at the 








THE district lying to the west of Darlington, in the 
county of Durham, is one of the richest mineral fields of 
the North. Vast stores of coal underlie the Bishop Auck- 
land Valley ; and from an early period it was felt to be 
an exceedingly desirable object to open up new commu- 
nications to enable the article to be sent to market. But 
as yet it remained almost a closed field, the cost of 
transport of the coal in carts, or on horses' or donkeys' 
backs, greatly limiting the sale. Long ago, in the days 
of canal formations, Brindley was consulted about a 
canal; afterwards, in 1812, a tramroad was surveyed 
by Rennie ; and eventually, in 1817, a railway was 
projected from "Wittoii Colliery, a few miles above Dar- 
lington, to Stockton-on-Tees. 


Of this railway Edward Pease was the projector. A 
thoughtful and sagacious man, ready in resources, pos- 
sessed of indomitable energy and perseverance, he was 

L50 r.l>\v.\IM> PEASE, CHAP. IX. 

eminently qualified to undertake what appeared to 
many tlir desperate enterprise of obtaining :m Art ol 
Parliament t> construct a r;iil\v:i\ through ;i rather 

iiiiju-ninisiii^ 1 district. One wlm knew liim in ISIS 
slid. ' lie was ;i man who could see ;i hundred years 
ahead." \Vlien tlie writer last saw liim, in the antiinni 
of Is.'il, Mr. Tense was in Lis eighty-eighth year; yet 
IK- still possessed tlie hopefulness and mental vigour of 
a man in his prime. TTale and hearty, and lull 01 renii- 
niseenee- of the past, lie continued to take an active 
interest in all measures calculated to render tlie lives of 
men hap] ier and better. Still sound in health, his eye 
had not lost its brilliancy, nor his cheek its colour ; and 
there was an elasticity in his step which younger men 
might have envied. 1 

In getting up a company for the purpose of surveying 
and forming a raihvav, Mr. Pease had uTeat difficulties 

O / ' 

to encounter. The people of the neighbourhood spoke 

of it as a ridiculous undertaking, and predicted that 
it would be the ruin of all who had to do with it. 
Even those who were most interested in the opening 
out of new markets for the vend of their coal, were 
indifferent, if not actually hostile. The Stockton mer- 
chants and shipowners, whom the formation of a 
railway was calculated so greatly to benefit, gave the 
project no support ; and not twenty shares were sub- 
scribed for in the whole town. Mr. Pease nevertheless 
persevered with the formation of a company ; and he 
induced many of his friends and relations to subscribe 
for shares. The Richardsons and Backhouses, members, 
like himself, of the Society of Friends, influenced by his 
persuasion, united themselves with him ; and so many 
of the same denomination (having great confidence in 
those influential Darlington names) followed their 
example and subscribed for shares, that the railway sub- 

1 Mr. Pease died at Darlington, on the 31st of July, 1858, aged ninety-two. 


sequently obtained the designation, which it still enjoys, 
of " The Quakers' Line." 

The engineer first employed to make a survey of 
the line was a Mr. Overton, who had had considerable 
experience in the formation of similar roads in Wales. 
The necessary preliminary steps were taken in the year 
1818 to apply for an Act to authorise the construction of 
a tramroad from Witton to Stockton. The measure was 
however, strongly opposed by the Duke of Cleveland, 
because the proposed line passed near to one of his 
fox covers ; and, having considerable parliamentary 
influence, he succeeded in throwing out the bill by a 
majority of only thirteen, above one hundred members 
voting in support of the measure. A nobleman said, 
when he heard of the division, " Well, if the Quakers 
in these times, when nobody knows anything about 
railways, can raise up such a phalanx in their support, 
I should recommend the county gentlemen to be very 
wary how they oppose them in future." 

A new survey was then made, avoiding the Duke's 
fox cover ; and in 1819 a renewed application was made 
to Parliament for an Act. But George III. dying in 
January, 1820, while Parliament was still sitting, there 
was a dissolution, and the Bill was necessarily suspended. 
The promoters, however, did not lose sight of their pro- 
ject. They had now spent a considerable sum of money 
in surveys and legal and parliamentary expenses, and 
were determined to proceed, though they were still 
unable to enlist the active support of the inhabitants 
of the district proposed to be served by the railway. 

The energy of Edward Pease, backed by the support 
of his Quaker friends, enabled him to hold the company 
together, to raise the requisite preliminary funds from 
time to time for the purpose of prosecuting the under- 
taking, and eventually to overcome the opposition 
raised against the measure in Parliament. The bill 
at length passed ; and the royal assent was given to 

Til!-; ACT <>1'.TA|\K1>. CHAP. IX. 

tin- fiisi Stoektnn ;ind Darlington Railwav Acton the 
IHtli of April, L821. 

Till' preaillhle of tills Art recites, tl);it k ' the making 

and maintaining of a Railway or Tramroad, for the p;is- 
sige of waggons and other carriages ' from Stockton 1<> 
\Vitton Park Colliery (by Darlington), "will beofgreal 
|>nl>lic utility, by facilitating the conveyance of coal, 
iron, lime, corn, and oilier commodities' between the 
places mentioned. The projectors of the line did not 
originally contemplate the employment of locomotives ; 
for in the Act they provide for the making and main- 
taining of the tramroads for the passage upon them 
" of waggons and other carriages' " with men and horses 
or otherwise," and a further clause made provision as 
to the damages which might be done in the course of 
traffic by the " waggoners." The public were to be free 
" to use, with horses, cattle and carriages," the roads 
formed by the company, on payment of the authorised 
rates, " between the hours of seven in the morning- 


and six in the evening," during the winter months; 
" between six in the morning and eight in the evening," 
in two of the spring and autumn months each ; and 
" between five in the morning and ten in the evening," 
in the high summer months of May, June, July, 
and August. From this it will be obvious that the 
projectors of the line had themselves at first no very 
large conceptions as to the scope of their project. 

Some time elapsed before any active steps were taken 
to proceed with the construction of the railway. Doubts 
had been raised whether the line was the best that could 
be adopted for the district; and the subscribers gene- 
rally were not so sanguine about the undertaking as to 
induce them to press it forward. 

One day, about the end of the year 1821, two 

*j j t/ 

strangers knocked at the door of Mr. Pease's house in 
Darlington ; and the message was brought to him that 
some persons from Killingworth wanted to speak with 


him. They were invited in, on which one of the 
visitors introduced himself as Nicholas Wood, viewer at 
Killingworth, and then, turning to his companion, he 
introduced him to Mr. Pease as George Stephenson, of 
the same place. Mr. Stephenson came forward and 
handed to Mr. Pease a letter from Mr. Lambert, the 
manager at Killingworth, in which it was stated that 
the bearer was the engine-wright at the pits, that 
he had had experience in the laying out of railways 
and had given satisfaction to his employers, and that 
he would therefore recommend him to the notice of 
Mr. Pease if he stood in need of the services of such 
a person. 

Mr. Pease entered into conversation with his visitors, 
and soon ascertained the object of their errand. Stephen- 
son had heard of the passing of the Stockton and Darling- 
ton Act, and desiring to increase his railway experience, 
and also to employ in some larger field the practical 
knowledge he had already gained, he determined to 
visit Mr. Pease, the known projector of the undertaking, 
with the view of being employed to carry it out. He 
had brought with him his friend Nicholas Wood, for 
the purpose at the same time of relieving his diffidence, 
and supporting his application. 

Mr. Pease liked the appearance of his visitor. " There 
was," as he afterwards remarked, in speaking of Stephen- 
son, " such an honest, sensible look about him, and 
he seemed so modest and unpretending. He spoke in 
the strong Northumbrian dialect of his district, and 
described himself as ' only the engine-wright at Killing- 
worth ; that's what he was.' 

Mr. Pease soon saw that our engineer w^as the very 
man for his purpose. The whole plans of the railway 
being still in an undetermined state, Mr. Pease was glad 
to have the opportunity of gathering from George Ste- 
phenson the results of his experience. The latter strongly 
recommended a railway in preference to a tramroad, in 


which Mr. Pease \v;is disposed 1<> concurwith liiin. Tlie 
conversation nexl turned n tin- tractive power which 

tin- compailV il 1 1 ! i< It < 1 ID employ, and Ml'. I Vase said 

that tli< v had based their whole calculations mi tin- cm- 

jilDvuiciit of horse power. " I was so satisfied," said he 

afterwards, " thai a horse upon an iron road would draw 
ten tons tor one ton on a common n>a<l, tliat I felt sure 
that before Ion- 1 the railway would become the Kind's 


l>ut Mr. Pease was scarcely prepared lor the bold 
a>scrtion made by his visitor, that the locomotive engine 
with which he had been working the Killingworth Kail- 
way for many years past was worth fifty horses, and 
that engines made after a similar plan would yet entirely 
supersede all horse power upon railroads. Mr. Stephenson 
was daily becoming more positive as to the superiority 
of his locomotive ; and on this, as on all subsequent 
occasions, he strongly urged Mr. Pease to adopt it. 
"Come over to Killingworth," said he, "and see what 
my engines can do ; seeing is believing, sir." And 
Mr. Pease promised that on some early day he would go 
over to Killingworth with his friend Thomas Richardson, 
and take a look at the wonderful machine that was to 
supersede horses. 

On Mr. Pease referring to the difficulties and the op- 
position which the projectors of the railway had bad to 
encounter, and the obstacles which still lay in their way, 
Stepbenson said to him, " I think, sir, I have some know- 
ledge of craniology, and from, what I see of your bead, 

I feel sure that if you will fairly buckle to this railway, 

i > / / 

you are the man successfully to carry it through." " I 
think so, too," rejoined Mr. Pease ; " and I may observe 
to tbee, that if thou succeed in making this a good rail- 
way, thou may consider thy fortune as good as made." 
He added that all they would require at present was an 
estimate of the cost of re-surveying the line, with the 
direction of which the company were not quite satisfied ; 




and as they had already paid away several hundred 
pounds, and found themselves very little advanced, 
Mr. Pease asked that this new survey should be done 
at as little expense as possible. This Stephenson readily 
assented to ; and after Mr. Pease had pledged himself to 
bring his application for the appointment of engineer 
before the Directors on an early day, and to support it 
with his influence, the two visitors prepared to take their 
leave, informing Mr. Pease that they intended to return 
as they had come, " by nip ; ' that is, they expected to 
get a smuggled lift on the stage-coach, by tipping Jehu, 
-for in those days the stage-coachmen were wont to 
regard all casual roadside passengers as their special per- 
quisite. They had, however, been so much engrossed 
by their interesting conversation, that the lapse of time 
was forgotten, and when Stephenson and his friend Wood 
left Mr. Pease's house to make enquiries about the return 
coach, they found the last had left ; and they were there- 
fore under the necessity of walking the eighteen miles 
to Durham on their way back to Newcastle. 1 

Mr. Pease having made further inquiries respecting 
Stephenson' s character and qualifications, and having 
received from John Grimshaw also a Friend, the 
inventor of endless spinning a very strong recommen- 
dation of him as the right man for the intended work, 

1 Mr. Nicholas Wood has given 
the following account of this remark- 
able day's proceedings : " It was my 
good fortune to have accompanied Mr. 
Stephenson as yon will have seen 
recorded in his Life on his visit to 
Darlington, to communicate with Mr. 
Pease on the establishment of the 
Darlington and Stockton Railway. 
It \vas rather a heavy day for us, as 
we first of all started from Killing- 
worth, and rode six miles ; we then 
went upon a coach thirty miles or 
more to Stockton; then we had a 
walk of twelve miles through the 
fields over the line of the proposed 
railway; then had an interview with 

Mr. Pease; and lastly, we walked 
from Darlington to Durham, eighteen 
miles further. Unfortunately for me, 
I broke down, about three miles from 
Durham, at the "Traveller's Rest." 
I hoped I might get accommodation 
there; but unfortunately I was told 
there was no room in the house, and 
had to go the remaining three miles. 
That was a joke, and a very satisfac- 
tory one, with Mr. Stephenson against 
me, during the whole of his life. This 
was only one instance of the very 
great energy which he displayed in 
accomplishing objects he had under- 
taken." Speech at Newcastle, 26th 
October, 1858. 


IK- hroiurht tin- subject of his application before tin- 
directors of tllC Stockton ;iini ] );| rl I 1 1 ^t< H I ( ' H 1 1 1 >M 1 1 V . 

Thcv resolved to ;idoj>t his recommendation that a rail- 
way !' formed instead of ;i tramroad : ;nid they further 
n-ipii-Meil Mr. Pease to write to Mr. Stephenson, which 
he accordingly did, requesting him to report as to tlie 
practicability, or otherwise, of the lino laid out by 
Mi 1 . Overtoil, and to state his surest-ions us to anv 


deviations or improvements in its course, together \vith 
estimates of comparative expenses. " In short," said Mr. 
Pease, "we wish tliee to proceed in all thy levels, esti- 
mates, and calculations, witli that care and economy 

which would influence thee if the whole of the work 
were thv own.' 

A man was despatched on a horse with the letter, 
and when he reached Killingworth he made diligent 
enquiry after the person named upon the address. 
" George Stephenson, Esquire, Engineer." Xo such 
person was known in the village. It is said that the 
man was on the point of giving up all further search, 
when the happy thought struck some of the colliers' 
wives who had gathered ahout him, that it must be 
"Geordie' the man was in search of; and to Geordie's 
cottage he accordingly went, found him at home, and 
delivered the letter. In his reply, Mr. Stephenson in- 
formed Mr. Pease that the re-survev of the line would 

occupy at least four weeks, and that his charge would 
include all necessary assistance for the accomplishment 
of the survey, estimates of the expense of cuts and 
batteries (since called cuttings and embankments) on 
the different projected lines, together with all remarks, 
reports, &c., on the same ; also the comparative cost of 
malleable and cast iron rails, laying the same, winning 
and preparing the blocks of stone, and all other materials 
wanted to complete the line. " I could not do this," 
said he, " for less than 140/., allowing me to be moder- 
ately paid. Such a survey would of course have to be 


made before the work could be begun, as it is impossible 
to form any idea of contracting for the cuts and batteries 
by the former one ; and I assure you I shall, in com- 
pleting the undertaking, act with that economy which 
would influence me if the whole of the work was my 

About the end of September Mr. Stephenson again 
went carefully over the line of the proposed railway, for 
the purpose of suggesting such improvements and devi- 
ations as he might consider desirable. He was accom- 
panied by an assistant and a chainman,- -his son Robert 
entering the figures while his father took the sights. 
After being engaged in the work at intervals for 
about six weeks, Stephenson reported the result of his 
survey to the Board of Directors, and showed that by 
certain deviations, a line shorter by about three miles 
might be constructed at a considerable saving in expense, 
while at the same time more favourable gradients an 
important consideration- -would be secured. 

The directors of the company, being satisfied that the 
improvements suggested in the line, and the saving 
which would be effected in mileage and in money, 
fully warranted them in incurring the trouble, delay, 
and expense of making a further application to Parlia- 
ment for an amended Act, took the requisite steps with 
this object. And in the mean time they directed Mr. 
Stephenson to prepare the specifications for the rails 
and chairs, and make arrangements to enter into con- 
tracts for the supply of the stone and wooden blocks on 
which the rails and chairs were to be laid. It was 
determined in the first place to proceed with the works 
at those parts of the line where no deviation was pro- 
posed ; and the first rail of the Stockton and Darlington 
Railway was laid with considerable ceremony, by Thomas 
Meynell, Esq., of Yarm, at a point near St. John's Well, 
Stockton, on the 23rd of May, 1822. 

t/ ' 

It is worthy of note that Stephenson, in making 


liis first estimate of the cost of forming the railway 
according in the instructions of the directors, set down, 
as part of the rost, (>200/. for stationary engines, not 
mentioning locomotives at all. The directors as yet 
routined their vie\vs to tlie employment only of horses 
for the haulage of the coals, and of fixed engines and 

^^ d? 

ropes win-re horse-power was not applicable. The 

whole question of steam locomotive power was, in the 
estimation of the public, as well as of practical and 
scientific. men, as yet in doubt. The confident anticipa- 
tions of George Stephenson, as to the eventual success of 
locomotive engines, were regarded as mere speculations ; 
and when lie gave utterance to his views, as he fre- 
quently took the opportunity of doing, it had the effect 
of shaking the confidence of some of his friends in the 
solidity of his judgment and his practical qualities as an 


When Mr. Pease discussed the question with Stephen- 
son, his remark was, " Come over and see my engines at 
Killing-worth, and satisfy yourself as to the efficiency of 
the locomotive. I will show you the colliery books, that 
you may ascertain for yourself the actual cost of work- 
ing. And I must tell you that the economy of the 
locomotive engine is no longer a matter of theory, but a 
matter of fact." So confident w^as the tone in which 
Stephenson spoke of the success of his engines, and so 
important were the consequences involved in arriving at 
a correct conclusion on the subject, that Mr. Pease at 
length resolved upon paying a visit to Killingworth ; and 
he proceeded thither accordingly, in the summer of 1822, 
in company with his friend Mr. Thomas Richardson, 1 a 
considerable subscriber to the Stockton and Darlington 

When Mr. Pease arrived at Killingworth village, he 
inquired for George Stephenson, and was told that he 

Mr. Richardson was the founder Richardson, Overend, and Gurney, in 
of the celebrated discount house of i Lombard Street. 




must go over to the West Moor, and seek for a cottage 
by the roadside, with a dial over the door- -that was 
where George Stephenson lived. They soon found the 
house with the dial ; and on knocking, the door was 
opened by Mrs. Stephenson- -his second wife (Elizabeth 
Hindmarsh), the daughter of a farmer at Black Callerton, 
whom he had married in 1820. 1 Her husband, she said, 
was not in the house at present, but she would send for 
him to the colliery. And in a short time Stephenson 
appeared before them in his working dress, just as he 
had come out of the pit. 

He very soon had his locomotive brought up to the 
crossing close by the end of the cottage,- -made the gen- 
tlemen mount it, and showed them its paces. Harness- 
ing it to a train of loaded waggons, he ran it along the 
railroad, and so thoroughly satisfied his visitors of its 
powers and capabilities, that from that day Edward 
Pease was a declared supporter of the locomotive engine. 

1 The story has been told that 
George was a former suitor of Miss 
Hiudmarsh, while occupying the posi- 
tion of a humble workman at Black 
Callerton, but that having been re- 
jected by her, he proceeded to make 
love to her servant, whom he married ; 
and that alter her death, when he had 
become a comparatively thriving man, 
and rode a galloway, he again made 
up to Miss Hindmarsh, and was on 
the second occasion accepted. The 
story is, however, without any foun- 
dation, as George's first wife was never 
a servant in the Hindmarsh family, 
nor had he ever exchanged a word 
with Miss Hindmarsh until the year 
1818, when he was introduced to her 
at his own desire by Thomas Hind- 
niarsh, her brother, the author's in- 
formant as to the i'acts. It may be 
observed in passing, that the writer of 
the article " George Stephenson," in 
the eighth edition of the ' Encyclo- 
paedia Britannica,' while objecting to 
the accuracy in certain respects of the 
' Life of George Stephenson,' as written 
by the author of tin's book, points to 

his own " Biography in Brief," as pub- 
lished in the interesting little book, 
entitled ' Our Coal and Our. Coal- 
Pits.' On turning to the book itself, 
it will be found that the " Biography 
in Brief " is substantially taken from 
a sketch of George Stephensou's life 
which appeared in ' Eliza Cook's 
Journal,' of June the 2nd, 1849. 
Among the errors contained in that 
article, is the statement that Stephen- 
son was sent into a coal-pit, to work 
as a " trapper," when between six and 
seven years old ; and also the above 
anecdote of his having first courted 
the mistress, and then descended to 
the maid both of which are adopted 
almost verbatim in ' Our Coal and 
Our Coal-Pits.' The author of this 
book has the less hesitation in stating 
these to be errors, as the article in 
' Eliza Cook's Journal,' where they 
originally appeared, was written by 
himself, on imperfect information, and 
before he had the opportunity of tho- 
roughly sifting, as he has since done, 
the facts of George Stephenson's early 


In preparing tin- Amended Stockton ;m<l Darlington 
Act of I S'j;;, nt Strplinisnii's iir-vnt r<M|iirst Mr. IVa>- 
li;id a clause inserted, taking power to work tin- railway 
l>v means of locomotive engines, and to employ them tor 
the haiilap' of passengers ;is well us of merchandise. 1 

Tl ic s< -(-MI i<l Stockton iii id Darlington Act was obtained 
in tin- sr.vsioii of 1823, not, however, without opposition, 
the Duke of Cleveland ;m<l the road trustees still appear- 
ing as the determined opponents of the hill. Never- 
theless, the measure passed into law; Stephenson was 
appointed the company's engineer at a salary of 300/. 
per annum ; and it was determined that the line should he 
constructed and opened for traffic as soon as practicable. 

He at once proceeded with the working survey of the 
improved line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, 
laying out every foot of the ground himself, accompanied 
by his assistants. Railway surveying was as yet in its 
infancy, and w^as very slow and deliberate work. It 
afterwards became a separate branch of railway business, 
and was left to a special staff of surveyors. Indeed on 
no subsequent line did George Stephenson take the 
sights through the spirit level with his own hands 
and eyes as he did on this railway. He started very 
early in the morning, and surveyed until dusk. John 
Dixon, who assisted in the survey, mentions that he 
remembers on one occasion, after a long day's work 
near Aycliffe, when the light had completely failed 
them, the party separated- -some to walk to Darling- 
ton, four miles off, Stephenson himself to the Simpasture 
larmhouse, where he had arranged to stay for the night ; 
and his last stringent injunction was, that they must all 
be on the ground to resume levelling as soon as there 
was light enough for the purpose. "You must not," he 
said, " set off from Darlington by daybreak, for then we 

The first clause in any railway locomotive engines for the working of 
act, empowering the employment of passenger traffic. 


shall lose an hour ; but you must be here, ready to begin 
work as soon as it is daylight." 

Stephenson performed the survey in top-boots and 
breeches a usual dress at the time. He was not at 
any time particular as to his living ; and during the 
survey, he took his chance of getting a drink of milk 
and a bit of bread at some cottager's house along the line, 
or occasionally joined in a homely dinner at some neigh- 
bouring farmhouse. The country people were accus- 
tomed to give him a hearty welcome when he appeared 
at their door ; for he was always full of cheery and 
homely talk, and, when there were children about the 
house, he had plenty of humorous chat for them as well 
as for their seniors. 

After the day's work was over, George would drop in 
at Mr. Pease's, to talk over with him the progress of the 
survey, and discuss various matters connected with the 
railway. Mr. Pease's daughters were usually present ; 
and on one occasion, finding the young ladies learning 
the art of embroidery, he volunteered to instruct them. 1 
" I know all about it," said he ; " and you will wonder 
how I learnt it. I will tell you. When I was a brakes- 
man at Killingworth, I learnt the art of embroidery 
while working the pitman's button-holes by the engine 
fire at nights." He was never ashamed, but on the con- 
trary rather proud, of reminding his friends of these 
humble pursuits of his early life. Mr. Pease's family 
were greatly pleased with his conversation, which was 
always amusing and instructive ; full of all sorts of 
experience, gathered in the oddest and most out-of- 
the-way places. Even at that early period, before he 
mixed in the society of educated persons, there was 
a dash of speculativeness in his remarks, which gave a 
high degree of originality to his conversation ; and 

1 This incident, communicated to 
the author by the late Edward Pease, 
has since been made the subject of a fine 

picture by Mr. A. Rankley, A.R.A., 
exhibited at the Royal Academy Ex- 
hibition of 1861. 



he would sometimes, in ;i casual remark, throw n Hash 

of light upon :i subject, which r;dl<'d up ;i whole train of 

pregnant suggestions. 

One of the most important subjects of discussion at 
these meetings with Mr. IVas<>, was tin- estabKshment of 
a manufactory at Newcastle for the building of locomo- 
tive engines. Up to tin's time all the locomotives con- 
structed al'ter Stephenson's designs, had been made by 
ordinary mechanics working amongst the collieries in 
the 1 North of England. But lie had long felt that the 
accuracy and style of their workmanship admitted of 
great improvement, and that upon this the more per- 
fect action of the locomotive engine, and its general 
adoption as the tractive power on railways, in a great 
measure depended. One great object that he had in 
view in establishing the proposed factory was, to concen- 
trate a number of good workmen for the purpose of 
carrying out the improvements in detail which he was 
constantly making in his engine. He felt hampered 
bv the want of efficient helpers in the shape of skilled 
mechanics, who could work out in a practical form the 
ideas of which his busy mind was always so prolific. 
Doubtless, too, he believed that the locomotive manufac- 
tory would prove a remunerative investment, and that, 
on the general adoption of the railway system, which he 
now anticipated, he would derive solid advantages from 
the fact of his manufactory being the only establishment 
of the kind for the special construction of railway loco- 

He still believed in the eventual success of railways, 


though it might be slow. Much, he believed, would 
depend upon the issue of this great experiment at 
Darlington ; and as Mr. Pease was a man on whose 
sound judgment he could rely, he determined upon 
consulting him about his proposed locomotive factory. 
Mr. Pease approved of his design, and strongly recom- 
mended him to carry it into effect. But there was the 


question of means ; and Stephenson did not think he 
had capital enough for the purpose. He told Mr. Pease 
that he could advance a thousand pounds- -the amount 
of the testimonial presented by the coal-owners for his 
safety-lamp invention, which he had still left untouched ; 
but he did not think this sufficient for the purpose, and 
he thought that he should require at least another thou- 
sand pounds. Mr. Pease had been very much struck 
with the successful performances of the Killingworth 
engine ; and being an accurate judge of character, he 
was not slow to perceive that he could not go far wrong 
in linking a portion of his fortune with the energy and 
industry of George Stephenson. He consulted his friend 
Thomas Eichardson in the matter ; and the two consented 
to advance 5 GO/, each for the purpose of establishing the 
engine factory at Newcastle. A piece of land was accor- 
dingly purchased in Forth Street, in August, 1823, on 
which a small building was erected the nucleus of the 
gigantic establishment which was afterwards formed 
around it ; and active operations commenced early in 

While the Stockton and Darlington Railway works 
were in progress, Mr. Stephenson held many interesting 
discussions with Mr. Pease, on points connected with 
its construction and working, the determination of which 
in a great measure affected the formation and working 
of all future railways. The most important points were 
these: 1. The comparative merits of cast and wrought 
iron rails. 2. The gauge of the railway. 3. The em- 
ployment of horse or engine power in working it, when 
ready for traffic. 

The kind of rails to be laid down to form the per- 
manent road was a matter of considerable importance. 
A wooden tramroad had been contemplated when the 
first Act was applied for ; but Stephenson having 
advised that an iron road should be laid down, he was 
instructed to draw up a specification of the rails. He 

M 2 

1C1 MAU.r.AI'.I.K KAILS K }]('( >M M KN I >K1 >. CHAP. IX. 

went hel'nre tin- directors t<> <li>eiiss with them the kind 
,,!' material t< be speeilird. He Was himself iliter- 

ested in the paleni for rasi-inm mils, which lie- li;id 
taken <>ut in conjunction with Mr. Losh in islli; and. 
<>f course, it was to his interest that his articles should 
!> used. I)iit when requested to u'ive his opinion on 
the suhjeet, lie iVaiikly said to flic directors, " Well, 
gentlemen, to lell you the truth, although it would put 
.")()()/. in my pocket to specify my own. patent rails, 1 
cannot do so after the experience I have had. If you 

take mv advice, YOU will not lav down a single cast-iron 

i/ i / . 

rail.' "Why? "asked the directors. "Because they 


will not stand the weight, and you w^ill he at no end 
of expense for repairs and relays." " What kind of 
road, then/' lie was asked, "would you recommend':' 
" Malleable rails, certainly," said he ; " and I can recom- 
mend them with the more confidence from the fact that 
at Killingworth we have had some Swedish bars laid 
down- -nailed to wooden sleepers- -for a period of four- 
teen years, the waggons passing over them daily ; and 
there they are, in use yet, whereas the cast rails a in- 
constantly giving way." l 

The price of malleable rails was, however, so high- 

being then worth about 12/. per ton as compared with 
cast-iron rails at about 5/. 10.5. and the saving of ex- 
pense was so important a consideration with the sub- 
scribers to the railway, that Mr. Stephenson was directed 
to provide, in the specification drawn by him, that only 

1 The most suitable kind of iron for gentleman interested in the formation 
rails had formed the subject of fre- of a railway near Durham, and his 

quent conversations between George 
Stephenson and his son in their cot- 

opinion on the point was clear and 
explicit. Eobert was only eighteen 

tage at Killingworth many years be- years old at the time, but his letter 
fore ; and they had both come to the was full of practical information on 
conclusion that malleable iron only the then little known subject of rail- 
should be used for the purpose, ways, indicating habits of careful ob- 
While liobert Stephenson was attend- serration, and the action of a vigorous 
ing college at Edinburgh, he wrote and well-disciplined intellect, " The 
a letter on the subject (dated Sept. letter was published in the 'Mining 
26th, 1821) to Piichard Scorton, a : Journal' of April 5th, 1862. 


one-half of the quantity of the rails required- -or 800 
tons should be of malleable iron, the remainder being 
of cast-iron. The malleable rails were of the kind called 
" fish-bellied," and weighed only 28 Ibs. to the yard, 
being 2i inches broad at the top, with the upper flange 
8 inch thick. They were only 2 inches in depth at the 
points at which they rested on the chairs, and 3i inches 
in the middle or bellied part. 

When forming the road, the proper gauge had also 
to be determined. What width was this to be ? The 
gauge of the first tramroad laid down had virtually 
settled the point. The gauge of wheels of the common 
vehicles of the country- -of the carts and waggons em- 
ployed on common roads, which were first used on the 
tramroads- -was about 4 feet 8J inches. And so the first 
tramroads were laid down of this gauge. The tools and 
machinery for constructing coal-waggons and locomo- 
tives were formed with this gauge in view. The Wylam 
w^aggon-way, afterwards the Wylam plate-way, the 
Killiiigworth railroad, and the Hetton railroad, were as 
nearly as possible on the same gauge. Some of the 
earth- waggons used to form the Stockton and Darlington 
road were brought from the Hetton railway ; and others 
which were specially constructed were formed of the 
same dimensions, these being intended to be afterwards 
employed in the working of the traffic. 

As the period drew near for the opening of the line, 
the question of the tractive power to be employed was 
anxiously discussed. At the Brusselton incline, fixed 
engines must necessarily be made use of; but with 
respect to the mode of working the railway generally, it 
was decided that horses were to be largely employed, 
and arrangements were made for their purchase. The 
influence of Mr. Pease also secured that a fair trial 
should be given to the experiment of working the traffic 
by locomotive power ; and three engines were ordered 
from the firm of Stephenson and Co., Newcastle, which 


were put in li;m<l forthwith, in anticipation of the 
opeiiinii- of the railway. These were constructed alter 
Mr. Stephenson' s most matured designs, and embodied 

all tin- improvements in the locomotive wliicli lie li;i<l con- 
trived up to tliat time. \o. [. engine, tlie " Locomotion," 
\vliieh was iirst delivered upon the line, Aveiirhed about 
eiirht tons. It had one larire flue or tul>o through ihe 
boiler, by wliieli the heated air passed direct from tlie 
furnace atone end, lined, with fire-bricks, to the chimney 
at the other. Tlie combustion in the furnace was quick- 
ened bv the adoption of the steam-blast in the chimney. 
The heat raised was sometimes so great, and it was so 
imperfectly abstracted by the surrounding water, that 
the chimney became almost red-hot. Such engines, 
when put to the top of their speed, were found capable 
of running: at the rate of from twelve to sixteen miles an 


hour ; but they were better adapted for the heavy w< >rk 
of hauling coal-trains at low speeds- -for which, indeed, 
they were specially constructed- -than for running at 
the higher speeds afterwards adopted. Nor was it con- 
templated by the directors as possible, at the time when 
tliev were ordered, that locomotives could be made 

t/ ' 

available for the purposes of passenger travelling. Be- 
sides, the Stockton and Darlington Railway did not run 
through a district in which passengers were supposed to 
be likely to constitute any considerable portion of the 
expected traffic. 

\Ve may easily imagine the anxiety felt by Mr. 
Stephenson during the progress, of the works towards 
completion, and his mingled hopes and doubts (though 
his doubts were but few) as to the issue of this great 
experiment. "\Vhen the formation of the line near 
Stockton was well advanced, Mr. Stephenson one day, 
accompanied by his son Robert and John Dixon, made a 
journey of inspection of the works. The party reached 
Stockton, and proceeded to dine at one of the inns there. 
After dinner, Mr. Stephenson ventured on the very 


unusual measure of ordering* in a bottle of wine, to drink 
success to the railway. John Dixon remembers and 
relates with pride the utterance of the master on the 
occasion. " Now, lads," said he to the two young men, 
" I will tell you that I think you will live to see the 
lay, though I may not live so long, when railways will 
come to supersede almost all other methods of convey- 
ance in this country- -when mail-coaches will go by 
railway, and railroads will become the great highway 
for the king and all his subjects. The time is coming 
when it will be cheaper for a working man to travel upon 
a railway than to walk on foot. I know there are great 
and almost insurmountable difficulties that will have to 
be encountered ; but what I have said will come to pass 
as sure as you live. I only wish I may live to see the 
day, though that I can scarcely hope for, as I know how 
slow all human progress is, and with what difficulty I 
have been able to get the locomotive adopted, notwith- 
standing my more than ten years' successful experiment 
at Killingworth." The result, however, outstripped 
even the most sanguine anticipations of Stephenson ; 
and his son Robert, shortly after his return from America 
in 1827, saw his father's locomotive generally adopted 
as the tractive power on railways. 

The Stockton and Darlington line was opened for 
traffic on the 27th of September, 1825. An immense 
concourse of people assembled from all parts to witness 
the ceremony of opening this first public railway. The 
powerful opposition which the project had encountered, 
the threats which were still uttered against the company 
by the road-trustees and others, who declared that they 
would yet prevent the line being worked, and perhaps 
the general unbelief as to its success which still pre- 
vailed, tended to excite the curiosity of the public as to 
the result. Some went to rejoice at the opening, some 
to see the " bubble burst ;" and there were many pro- 
phets of evil who would not miss the blowing up of the 




boasted travelling engine. Tin- ojieninu- was, however. 

auspicious. Tlie proceedings commenced at Brusselton 

[ncline, about niii" miles al>ove Darlington, when the 
lixed riiLrine drew a train of loaded watru'ons nj> the 
incline from tin- west, and lowered them mi the east 

[Fac-simile of a loca"; lithograph.] 

side. At the foot of the incline a locomotive was 
in readiness to receive them, Mr. Stepheiison himself 
driving the engine. The train consisted of six waggons 
loaded with coals and flour ; after these was the pas- 
senger-coach, filled with the directors and their friends, 
and then twenty-one waggons fitted up with temporary 
seats for passengers ; and lastly came six waggon-loads 
of coals, making in all a train of thirty-eight vehicles. 
The local chronicler of the day went almost out of 
breath in describing the extraordinary event :--" The 
signal being given," he says, " the engine started off 
with this immense train of carriages ; and such was its 
velocity, that in some parts the speed was frequently 12 
miles an hour." By the time the train reached Stockton 
there were about 600 persons in the train or hanging 


on to tlie waggons, which must have gone at a safe and 
steady pace of from four to six miles an hour from 
Darlington. " The arrival at Stockton," it is added, 
" excited a deep interest and admiration." 

The working of the line then commenced, and the 
results were such as to surprise even the most sanguine 
of its projectors. The traffic upon which they had 
formed their estimates of profit proved to be small 
in comparison with the traffic which flowed in upon 
them that had never been taken into account. Thus, 
what the company had principally relied upon for their 
profit was the carriage of coals for land sale at the 
stations along the line, whereas the haulage of coals 
to the seaports for exportation to the London market 
was not contemplated as possible. When the bill was 
before Parliament, Mr. Lambtoii (afterwards Earl of 
Durham) succeeded in getting a clause inserted, limiting 
the charge for the haulage of all coal to Stockton-on- 
Tees for the purpose of shipment, to one halfpenny per 
ton per mile ; whereas a rate of fourpence per ton was 
allowed to be taken for all coals led upon the railway 
for land sale. Mr. Lambtoii' s object in enforcing the 
low rate of one halfpenny was to protect his own trade 
in coal exported from Sunderland and the northern 
ports. He believed, in common with everybody else, 
that the halfpenny rate would effectually secure him 
against any competition on the part of the Stockton and 
Darlington Company ; for it was not considered possible 
for coals to be led at that low price, and the proprietors 
of the railway themselves considered that to carry coals 
at such a rate would be utterly ruinous. The projectors 
never contemplated sending more than 10,000 tons a 
year to Stockton, and those only for shipment as ballast ; 
they looked for their profits almost exclusively to the 
land sale. The result, however, was as surprising to 
them as it must have been to Mr. Lambton. The half- 
penny rate which was forced upon them, instead of being 


ruinous, proved the vital element in tin- success of the 
railway. In the course <>f a few years, the annual ship- 
ment df coal, led hv the Stockton, and Darlington Hail- 

t C? 

way to Stockton and Middlesborough, exceeded live 
hundred thousand tons ; and it lias since tar exceeded 
tin's amount. Instead of being, us anticipated, a subor- 
dinate branch of traffic, it proved, in fact, tlie main 
traflic. while tlie land sale was merely subsidiary. 

The anticipations of the company as to passenger 
traffic were in like manner more than realised. At 
iirsf. passengers were not thought of; and it was only 
while the works, were in progress that the starting of 
a passenger coach was seriously contemplated. The 
number of persons travelling between the two towns 
was very small ; and it was not known whether these 
would risk their persons upon the iron road. It was 
determined, however, to make the trial of a railway 
coach ; and Mr. Stephenson was authorised by the 
directors to have one built to his order at Newcastle, at 
the cost of the company. This was done accordingly ; 
and the first railway passenger carriage was built after 
our engineer's plans. It was, however, a very modest, 
and indeed a somewhat uncouth machine, more resem- 
bling the caravans still to be seen at country fairs con- 
taining the " Giant and the Dwarf" and other wonders 
of the world, than a passenger coach of any extant 
form. A row of seats ran along each side of the inte- 
rior, and a long deal table was fixed in the centre ; the 
access being by means of a door at the back end, in the 
manner of an omnibus. This coach arrived from New- 
castle the day before the opening, and formed part of 
the railway procession above described. Mr. Stephen- 
son was consulted as to the name of the coach, and he 
at once suggested " The Experiment ;" and by this name 
it was called. The Company's arms were afterwards 
painted on her side, with the motto " Periculmn pri- 
vatum utilitas publica." Such was the sole passenger- 





Carrying stock of the Stockton and Darlington Company 
in the year 1825. But the " Experiment" proved the fore- 
runner of a mighty traffic: and long time did not elapse 
before it was displaced, not only by improved coaches 
(still drawn by horses), but afterwards by long trains of 
passenger-carriages drawn by locomotive engines. 

Xo sooner did the coal and merchandise trains begin 
to run regularly upon the line, than new business rela- 
tions sprang up between Stockton and Darlington, and 
there were many more persons who found occasion to 
travel between the two towns,- -merchandise and mineral 
traffic invariably stimulating, if not calling into exist- 
ence, an entirely new traffic in passengers. Before the 
construction of the line, the attempt had been made to 
run a coach between Stockton, Darlington, and Barnard 
Castle three times a week ; but it was starved off the road 
for want of support. Now, however, that there were 
numbers of people desiring to travel, the stage-coach by 
the common road was revived and prospered, and many 
other persons connected with the new traffic got a 
64 lift' bv the railway waomms, which were even more 

t v 

popular than the stage-coach. 


Ivxperiiiient ' was fairly started as a passenger 

mi tin- loth of October, 1.8*J.", a fortnighl after 

the opening of tin- line. It was dravsn hyone lior>-. 
and performed a journey daily each way between tin- 
two towns, accomplishing the distance of twelve miles 
in ahmit two hours. The fare charged was a shilling, 
without distinction of class; and each passenger was 
allowed fourteen pounds of luggage free. The " Experi- 
ment ' was not, however, worked hy the company, hut 
was let to Messrs. Pickersgill and ITarland, carriers on 
the railway, under an arrangement with them as to the 
payment of tolls for the use of the line, rent of booking- 
c; i bins, &c. 

The speculation answered so well, that several coaching 
companies w r ere shortly after got up by innkeepers at 
Darlington and Stockton, for the purpose of running other 
coaches upon the railroad ; and an active competition 
for passenger traffic sprang up. 1 " The Experiment ' 
heing found too heavy for one horse to draw between 
Stockton and Darlington, besides being found an uncom- 
fortable machine, was banished to the coal district, and 
ran for a time between Darlington and Shildon. Its place 
on the line between Stockton and Darlington was sup- 
plied by other and better vehicles,- -though they were no 
other than old stage-coach bodies, purchased by the com- 
pany, and each mounted upon an underfrarne with flange- 
wheels. These were let on hire to the coaching com- 

1 The coaches were not allowed to looking into the nature of this proceed- 

be run upon the line without consider- ing and its consequences, it is clear, if 

able opposition. We find Edward i the Court shall confirm it by convic- 

Pease writing to Joseph Sanders, of tiou, that we are undone as to the 

Liverpool, on the 18th January, conveyance of passengers." Mr. Pease 

1827: "Our railway coach pro- incidentally mentions the names of the 

prietors have individually received several coach proprietors at the time 

notices of a process in the Exchequer "Pickersgill and Co., Richard Scott, 

for various fines, to the amount of ' and Martha Hewson." The proceed- 

150?., in penalties of 201. each, for ing was eventually defeated, it being 

neglecting to have the plates, with decided that the penalties only applied 

the numbers of their licenses, on the ; to coaches travelling on common or 

coach doors, agreeably to the provi- turnpike-roads, 
sions of the Act 95 George IV. In 


paiiies, who horsed and managed them under an arrange- 
ment as to tolls, in like manner as the u Experiment ' 
had been worked. Now began the distinction of inside 
and outside passenger, equivalent to first and second 
class, paying different fares. The competition with 
each other upon the railway, and with the ordinary 
stage-coaches upon the road, soon brought up the speed, 
which was increased to ten miles an hour- -the mail- 
coach rate of travelling in those days, and considered 
very fast. 

Mr. Clephan, a native of the district, has described 
some of the curious features of the competition between 
the rival coach companies :--" There were two separate 
coach companies in Stockton, and amusing collisions 
sometimes occurred between the drivers- -who found on 
the rail a novel element for contention. Coaches cannot 
pass each other on the rail as on the road ; and, as the 
line was single, with four sidings in the mile, when two 
coaches met, or two trains, or coach and train, the ques- 
tion arose which of the drivers must go back ? This 
was not always settled in silence. As to trains, it came 
to be a sort of understanding that light waggons 
should give way to loaded ; and as to trains and coaches, 
that the passengers should have preference over coals ; 
while coaches, when they met, must quarrel it out. At 
length, midway between sidings, a post was erected, 
and a rule was laid down that he w T ho had passed the 
pillar must go on, and the ' coming man ' go back. At 
the Goose Pool and Early Nook, it was common for 
these coaches to stop ; and there, as Jonathan would 
say, passengers and coachmen ' liquored.' One coach, 
introduced by an innkeeper, was a compound of two 
mourning-coaches, an approximation to the real rail- 
way coach, which still adheres, with multiplying excep- 
tions, to the stage-coach type. One Dixon, who drove 
the ' Experiment ' between Darlington and Shildon, is 
the inventor of carriage-lighting on the rail. On a dark 


winter night, having eompassinn on his passengers, IK- 
would l)iiv ;i penny candle, Mini place ii lighted amongsl 
them <>ii tlu- tal)lr of the 4 Experiment ' the lirsl rail- 
way coach (\vhieh, by tin- way, ended ils days at Shildon 
MS ;i railway cabin), being M!S<> the first coach on the mil 
(first, second, :md third class jammed M!! into one) tlmt 
indulged its customers witli light in darkness." 

'Die tralHc of all soils increased so steadily and so 
rapidly that considerable difficulty was experienced in 
working it satisfactorily. It had been provided by the 
first Stockton and Darlington Act that the line should 
be free to all parties who chose to use it at certain pre- 
scribed rates, and that any person might put horses and 
waggons on the railway, and carry for himself. But 
this arrangement led to increasing confusion and diffi- 
culty, and could not continue in the face of a large and 
rapidly-increasing traffic. The goods trains got so long 
that the carriers found it necessary to call in the aid of 
the locomotive engine to help them on their way. 
Then mixed trains of passengers and merchandise began 
to run; and the result was that the railway company 
found it necessary to take the entire charge and working 
of the traffic. In course of time new passenger carriages 
were specially built for the better accommodation of the 
public, until at length regular passenger trains were run, 
drawn by the locomotive engine,- -though this was IK >t 
until after the Liverpool and Manchester Company had 
established these as a distinct branch of their traffic. 

The three Stephenson locomotives were from the 
first regularly employed to work the coal trains ; and 
their proved efficiency for this purpose led to the gradual 
increase of the locomotive power. The speed of the 
engines slow though it seems now- was in those days 
regarded as something marvellous. A race actually 
came off between No. I. engine, the " Locomotion," and 
one of the stage-coaches travelling from Darlington to 
Stockton by the ordinary road ; and it was regarded as a 




great triumph of mechanical skill that the locomotive 
reached Stockton first, beating the stage-coach by about 
a hundred yards ! The same engine continued in good 
working order in the year 1846, when it headed the 
railway procession on the opening of the Middlesborough 
and Redcar Railway, travelling at the rate of about 
fourteen miles an hour. This engine, the first that 
travelled upon the first public railway, has recently 
been placed upon a pedestal in front of the railway 
station at Darlington. 


For some years, however, the principal haulage of 
the line was performed by horses. The inclination of 
the gradients being towards the sea, this was perhaps 
the cheapest mode of traction, so long as the traffic was 
not very large. The horse drew the train along the 
level road, until, on reaching a descending gradient, 
down which the train ran by its own gravity, the animal 
was unharnessed, and, when loose, he wheeled round to 
the other end of the waggons, to which a " dandy-cart ' 
was attached, its bottom being only a few inches from 


llii- rail. Hrin^-mir his step into unison witli the speed 
of tin- train, the horse learnt 1<> leap nimbly int> his 


plac,' in this \\ aLi'u'oii, which was usually fitted with a 

JT ' 

well-tilled hay-rack. 

The details of the working were gradually perfected 

by experience. the projectors of the line being scarcely 
conscious at first <>f 1hc importance and significance of 
the work which they had taken in hand, and little 
thinking that they were laying the inundations of a 
system which was yet to revolutionise the internal 
communications of the world, arid confer the greatest 
blessings on mankind. It is important to note that the 
commercial results of the enterprise were considered 
satisfactory from the opening of the railway. Besides 
conferring a great public benefit upon the inhabitants 
of the district and throwing open entirely new markets 
for the almost boundless stores of coal found in the 
Bishop Auckland district, the profits derived from the 
traffic created bvthe railwav enabled increasing dividends 

.' t/ C5 

to be paid to those who had risked their capital in the 
undertaking, and thus held forth an encouragement to 
the projectors of railways generally, which was not 
without an important effect in stimulating the projection 
of similar enterprises in other districts. These results, 
as displayed in the annual dividends, must have been 
eminently encouraging to the astute commercial men of 
Liverpool and Manchester, who were then engaged in 
the prosecution of their railway. Indeed, the com- 
mercial success of the Stockton and Darlington Company 
may be justly characterised as the turning-point of the 
railway system. AVith that practical illustration daily 
in sight of the public, it was no longer possible for 
Parliament to have prevented its eventual extension. 

Before leaving the subject of the Stockton and Dar- 
lington Railway, w r e cannot avoid alluding to one of its 
most remarkable and direct results- -the creation of the 
town of Middlesborough-oii-Tees. When the railway 


was opened in 1825, the site of this future metropolis of 
Cleveland was occupied by one solitary farm-house and its 
outbuildings. All round was pasture-land or mud-banks ; 
scarcely another house w r as within sight. The corpora- 
tion of the town of Stockton being unwilling or unable to 
provide accommodation for the rapidly increasing coal 
traffic, Mr. Edward Pease, in 1829, joined by a few of 
his Quaker friends, bought about 500 or 600 acres 
of land, five miles lower down the river- -the site of 
the modern Middlesborough- -for the purpose of there 
forming a new seaport for the shipment of coals brought 
to the Tees by the railway. The line was accordingly 
extended thither ; docks were excavated ; a town sprang 
up ; churches, chapels, and schools were built, with a 
custom-house, mechanics' institute, banks, shipbuilding 
yards, and iron-factories ; and in a few years the port 
of Middlesborough became one of the most thriving on 
the north-east coast of England. In ten years a busy 
population of some 6000 persons (since swelled to about 
20,000) occupied the site of the original farmhouse. 
More recently, the discovery of vast stores of ironstone 
in the Cleveland Hills, close adjoining Middlesborough, 
has tended still more rapidly to augment the population 
and increase the commercial importance of the place. 

It is pleasing to relate, in connexion with this great 
work the Stockton and Darlington Railway, projected 
by Edward Pease and executed by George Stepheiison 
-that when Mr. Stepheiison became a prosperous and 
a celebrated man, he did not forget the friend who 
had taken him by the hand, and helped him on in 
his early days. He continued to remember Mr. Pease 
with gratitude and affection, and that gentleman, to the 
close of his life, was proud to exhibit a handsome gold 
watch, received as a gift from his celebrated protege, 
bearing these words : " Esteem and gratitude : from 
George Stepheiison to Edward Pease." 





Tin-: r;i]>i<l growth of the trade and manufactures of 
South Lancashire irave rise, ;ilout the year 1821, to 

O i/ 

tin' project of a tramroad for the conveyance of goods 
between Liverpool and Manchester. Since the con- 
struction of the Bridgewater Canal by Brindley, some 
fifty years before, the increase in the business transacted 
between the two towns had become quite marvellous. 
The steam-engine, the spinning-jenny, and the canal, 
working together, had accumulated in one focus a vast 
aggregate of population, manufactures, and trade. 

The Duke's Canal, when first made, furnished a cheap 
and ready means of conveyance between the seaport 
and the manufacturing towns, for the raw cotton in 
the one direction and the manufactured produce in the 
other. During the first thirty years of its existence the 
traffic was small and easily managed. About the end 
of last century, for instance, it was considered satis- 

*/ / 

factory if one cotton-flat a day reached Manchester by 
canal from Liverpool. But such was the expansion of 
business caused by the inventions to which we have 
referred that, before the lapse of many more years, the 
navigation was found altogether inadequate to accom- 
modate the traffic, which completely outgrew all the 
Canal Companies' appliances of wharves, boats, and 
horses. Cotton lay at Liverpool for weeks together, 
waiting to be removed ; and it occupied a longer time 
to transport the cargoes from Liverpool to Manchester 
than it had done to bring them across the Atlantic 
from the United States to England. Carts and wag- 


gons were tried, but proved altogether insufficient. 
Sometimes manufacturing operations had to be sus- 
pended altogether, and during a frost, when the canals 
were frozen up, the communication was entirely stopped. 
The consequences were often disastrous, alike to opera- 
tives, merchants, and manufacturers. The same diffi- 
culty was experienced in the conveyance of manu- 
factured goods from Manchester to Liverpool for 'export. 
Mr. Huskisson, in the House of Commons, referring to 
these ruinous delays, observed that "cotton was sometimes 
detained a fortnight at Liverpool, while the Manchester 
manufacturers were obliged to suspend their labours ; 
and goods manufactured at Manchester for foreign 
markets could not be transmitted in time, in conse- 
quence of the tardy conveyance." 

Expostulation with the Canal Companies was of no 
use. They were overcrowded with business at their 
own prices, and disposed to be very dictatorial. When 
the Duke first constructed his canal, it will be remem- 
bered that he had to encounter the fierce opposition of 
the Irwell and Mersey Navigation, whose monopoly his 
new line of water conveyance threatened to interfere 
with. 1 But the innovation of one generation often be- 
comes the obstruction of the next. The Duke's agents 
would scarcely listen to the expostulations of the Liver- 
pool merchants and Manchester manufacturers, and the 
Bridgewater Canal was accordingly, in its turn, de- 
nounced as a monopoly. 

Under these circumstances any new mode of transit 
between the two towns which offered a reasonable 
prospect of relief was certain to receive a cordial wel- 
come. The scheme of a tramroad was, however, so 
new and comparatively untried, that it is not surprising 
that the parties interested should have hesitated before 
committing themselves to it. Mr. Sandars, an influential 

1 Lives of the Engineers, vol. i. p. 371. 



Liverpool im'ivhaiit. was amount the iirst 1<> hn;irh 
tin' siihjcd. Mr himself had suffered in liis business, in 

common with s > ninny others, from the insufficiency <>l 

tin- existing modes <>f communication, ;m<l w;is n-ady to 
i^ivr due consideration t<> ;my plan presenting elements 
of jinictiral efficiency which proposed ;i ivmnly for thr 
Livnrrally admitted grievance. I hiving caused in<|iiiry 
to be made ;is to the success wliich li;i<l attended iln- 
haulage of heavy coal-trains ly locomotive power on 
thi' northern railways, lie was led to form the opinion 
that the same means might he equally efficient in con- 
ducting the increasing 1 traffic in merchandise het \\ecn 

o o 

Liverpool and Manchester. He ventilated the subject 
i t 

amongst his friends, and ahout the beginning of 1821 a 
committee was formed for the purpose of bringing the 
scheme of a railroad before the public. 

The novel project having become noised abroad, 
attracted the attention of the friends of railways in 
other quarters. Tramroads were by no means new 
expedients for the transit of heavy articles. The Croy- 
don and Waiidsworth Railway, laid down by William 
Jessop as early as the year 1801, had been regularly 
used for the conveyance of lime and stone in waggons 
hauled by mules or donkeys from Merstham to London. 1 
The sight of this humble railroad in 1813 led Sir 
Richard Phillips to throw out the following thoughtful 
observations in his * Morning Walk to Kew ':--" I found 
delight," said he, " in witnessing at Wandsworth the 

1 This line was purchased by the 
London and Brighton Uailway Com- 
pany, and has lon^ since been disused, 
though the traveller to Brighton can 
still discern the marks ol' the old tram- 
road along the hill-side, a little to the 
south of Croydon. ' ' The <j< \niu s luc /, '' 
says Charles Knight, "must look with 
wonder on the gigantic offspring of the 
little railway, which has swallowed up 
its own sire. Lean mules no longer 
crawl leisurely along the little rails 
with trucks of stone through Croydon, 

once perchance during the day, but the 

whistle and the rush of the locomotive 
are now heard all day long. Not a 
few liiads of lime, but all London and 
its contents, by comparison -- men, 
women, children, horses, dogs, oxen, 
sheep, pigs, carriages, merchandise, 
food would seem, to be now-a-days 
passing Croydon; for day after day, 
more than 100 journeys are made by 
the great railroads which pass the 
place.' 1 


economy of horse labour on the iron railway. Yet a 
heavy sigh escaped me as I thought of the inconceivable 
millions of money which had been spent about Malta, 
four or five of which might have been the means of 
extending; double lines of iron railway from London to 

d? / 

Edinburgh. Glasgow, Holvhead, Milford, Falmouth, 

O ~ i/ 

Yarmouth, Dover, and Portsmouth. A reward of a 
single thousand would have supplied coaches and other 
vehicles, of various degrees of speed, with the best 
tackle for readily turning out ; and we might, ere this, 
have witnessed our mail coaches running at the rate of 
ten miles an hour drawn by a single horse, or impelled 
fifteen miles an hour by Blenkinsop's steam-engine. 
Such would have been a legitimate motive for over- 
stepping the income of a nation, and the completion of 
so- great and useful a work would have afforded rational 
ground for public triumph in general jubilee." 

In the same year we find Mr. Lovell Edgworth, who 
had for fifty years been advocating the superiority of 
tram or railroads over common roads, writing to James 
Watt (7th August, 1813): "I have always thought 
that steam would become the universal lord, and that 
w r e should in time scorn post-horses ; an iron railroad 
would be a cheaper thing than a road upon the common 
construction." Thomas Gray, of Nottingham, was 
another speculator on the same subject. Though he 
was no mechanic nor inventor, he had an enthusiastic 
belief in the powers of the railroad system. Being a 
native of Leeds, he had, when a boy, seen Bleiikinsop's 
locomotive at work on the Middleton cogged railroad, 
and from an early period he seems to have entertained 
almost as sanguine views on the subject as Sir Richard 
Phillips himself. It would appear that Gray was re- 
siding in Brussels in 1816, when the project of a canal 
from Charleroi, for the purpose of connecting Holland 
with the mining districts of Belgium, was the subject of 
discussion ; and, in conversation with Mr. John Cockerill 

L82 TIloMAS <;i;.\Y. CHAP. X. 

and others. IK- took (lie opportunity of advocating tin* 
superior advantages of a railway. He occupied himself 

t'<>r some time with the preparation of ;i pamphlel on 
the subject. He shut himself up in liis room, secluded 

from his wilr ;m<l relations, declining to irive tin-in any 
information on the subject of his mysterious studies, 
hrYMiid the ;issur;inee that liis seli<'iiic "would revolu- 
tionist the whole liiee of the material world and of 
society." In 1820 Mr. Gray published the result of his 
studies in liis ' Observations on a General Iron Rail- 
way.' l in which, Avitli great cogency, lie urged the 
superiority of a locomotive railway over common roads 
and canals, pointing out, at the same time, the advan- 
tages to all classes of the community of this mode of 
conveyance for merchandise and persons. In this book 
Mr. Gray suggested the propriety of making a railway 
between Manchester and Liverpool, " which," he ob- 
served, " would employ many thousands of the distressed 
population of Lancashire." The treatise seems to have 
met with a ready sale, for we find that, two years later, 
it had already passed into a fourth edition. In 1822, 
Mr. Gray added a diagram to the book, showing a 
number of suggested lines of railway connecting the 
principal towns of England, and another in like manner 
connecting the principal towns of Ireland. 

The publication of this essay had the effect of bringing 
the subject of railway extension prominently under the 
notice of the public. Although little able to afford it, 
Gray also pressed his favourite project of a general iron 
road on the attention of public men- -mayors, members 
of Parliament, and prime ministers. He sent memorials 
to Lord Sidniouth in 1820, and to the Lord Mayor and 

' Observations on a General Iron turnpike-roads and canals ; and claim- 
Railway (with Plates and Map illus- ing the particular attention of mer- 
trative of the plan) ; showing its great chants, manufacturers, farmers, and 
superiority, by the general introduc- indeed every class of society.' Lon- 
tion of mechanic power, over all the don : Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 
present methods of conveyance by 1820. 


Corporation of London in 1821. In 1822, lie addressed 
the Earl of Liverpool, Sir Robert Peel, and others, 
urging the great national importance of his plan. In 
the year following, he petitioned the ministers of state 
to the same effect. He was so pertinacious that public 
men pronounced him to be a " bore," and in the town 
of Nottingham, where he then lived, those who knew 
him declared him to be " cracked." William Hewitt, 
who frequently met Gray at that time, has published a 
lively portraiture of this indefatigable and enthusiastic 
projector, who seized all men by the button, and would 
not let them go until he had unravelled to them his 
wonderful scheme. With Thomas Gray, says he, " begin 
where you would, on whatever subject- -the weather, 
the news, the political movement or event of the day- 
it would not be many minutes before you would be 
enveloped with steam, and listening to an harangue on 
the practicability and immense advantages, to the nation 
and to every man in it, of 4 a general iron railway.' 

These speculations show that the subject of railways 
w T as gradually becoming familiar to the public mind, 
and that thoughtful men were anticipating with con- 
fidence the adoption of steam-power for the purposes of 
railway traction. At the same time, a still more profit- 
able class of labourers was at work- -first, men like 
Stephenson, who were engaged in improving the loco- 
motive and making it a practicable and economical 
working power, and next, those like Edward Pease of 
Darlington, and Joseph Sandars of Liverpool, who were 
organizing the means of laying down the railways. Mr. 
William James, of West Bromwich, belonged to the 
active class of projectors. He was a man of considerable 
social influence, of an active temperament, and had from 
an early period taken a warm interest in the formation 
of tramroads. Acting as land-agent for gentlemen of 
property in the mining districts, he had laid down 
several lines in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, 



:L, AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY. (Western i'url.) 

Gloucester, and Bristol ; and he published many pam- 
phlets urging- their formation in other places. At one 
period of his life he was a large iron-manufacturer, for 
some time acting as Chairman of the Staffordshire iron- 
masters. The times, however, went against him. It 
was thought he was too bold, some considered him even 
reckless, in his speculations; and he lost almost his 
entire fortune. He continued to follow the business of 
a land-agent, and it was while engaged in making a 
survey for one of his clients in the neighbourhood of 
Liverpool early in 1821, that he first heard of Mr. 
Bandars' project of a railway between that town and 
Manchester. He at once called upon Mr. Bandars, and 
offered his services as surveyor of the proposed line. 
After conferring with his friend Mr. Moss, Mr. Sandars 
authorized James to proceed, and agreed to pay him 
for the survey at the rate of 10/. a mile, or 300/. for the 
entire survey. 

The trial survey was then proceeded with, but it was 
conducted with great difficulty, the inhabitants of the 
district entertaining the most violent prejudices against 
the formation of the proposed railway. In some places 
Mr. James and his Mirveyiug parly even encountered 



personal violence. Near New ton-in-the- Willows the 
farmers stationed men at the field-gates with pitchforks, 
and sometimes with guns, to drive the surveyors back. 
At St. Helen's, one of the chainmen was laid hold of hy 
a mob of colliers, and threatened to be hurled down a 
coal-pit. A number of men, women, and children, col- 
lected and ran after the surveyors wherever they made 
their appearance, bawling nicknames and throwing 
stones at them. As one of the chainmen was climbing 
over a gate one day, a labourer made at him with a 
pitchfork, and ran it through his clothes into his back ; 
other watchers running up, the chainrnan, who was 
more stunned than hurt, took to his heels and fled. But 
that mysterious-looking instrument- -the theodolite - 
most excited the fury of the natives, who concentrated 
on the man who carried it their fiercest execrations and 
most offensive nicknames. 

A powerful fellow, a noted bruiser, was hired by the 
surveyors to carry the instrument, with a view to its 
protection against all assailants ; but one day an equally 
powerful fellow, a St. Helen's collier, cock of the walk 
in his neighbourhood, made up to the theodolite bearer 
to wrest it from him bv sheer force. A battle took 

JAMES'S VISITS TO K1I.I.!N< i\v< >i;'l ll. CHAP X. 

plac<-. tlir cllicr wns soundly pummelled, tin- Datives 
poured in \ollrvs of^ionrs upon tlir surveyors and their 

Mi>t riiniciit>. and llir theodolite was si i IMS! n -d tit plCCCS, 
I'Yoin ;i Idler UToiv n>. written l>v Mr. Janir- to 

Mr. Sandars. on tin- 'J I si Ocluhrr, 1S1>1. it appears 

tli:it ;in outline-survey li;id then been made. ;md tin- 

Qotices were published of the intended application to 
Parliament. Mr. James there states tli;it In- i> "going 

to Xewenstle principally to get ;i certificate from Ste- 
phenson of tin- opcr; it ions of Ins engine. I'ntil a deputa- 
tion goes down, it may serve Io jnvvnit tlie cxisluiice 
and spread of doubts, which are so mortifying to lionoiu- 
al>le intentions." Mr. James accordingly proceeded to 
Killing-worth, and his son, who accompanied him, has 
informed us of the result of the visit. Mr. James was 
not so fortunate as to meet Mr. Stephenson on the occa- 
sion ; but he examined the locomotive at work, and was 
very much struck by its power and efficiency. He saw 
at a irlance the magnificent uses to which it might be 
applied. "Here," said he, " is an engine that will, 
before long, effect a complete revolution in society." 
Returning to Moreton-in-the-Marsh, he wrote to Mr. 
Losh (Stephenson' s partner in the patent) expressing 
his admiration of the Killingworth engine. " It is," 
said lie, "the greatest wonder of the age, and the fore- 
runner, as I firmly believe, of the most important 
changes in the internal communications of the king- 
dom." Mr. Losh invited him again to visit Killing- 
worth, for the purpose of having an interview with 
Mr. Stephenson on the subject of his locomotive. 
Accordingly, in September of the same year, Mr. 
James, accompanied by his two sons, made a second 
journey to Killingworth, where he met both Losh and 
Stephenson. The visitors were at once taken to where 
the locomotive was working, and invited to mount 
it. The uncouth and extraordinary appearance of 
the machine, as it came snorting along, was somewhat 


alarming to the youths, who expressed their fears lest 
it should burst; and they were with some difficulty 
induced to mount. 

The engine went through its usual performances, 
dragging a heavy load of coal- waggons at about six 
miles an hour, with apparent ease, at which Mr. James 
expressed his extreme satisfaction, and declared to Mr. 
Losh his opinion that Stephenson " was the greatest 
practical genius of the age," and that, " if he developed 
the full powers of that engine (the locomotive), his fame 
in the world would rank equal to that of Watt." Mr. 
James informed Stephenson and Losh of his survey of 
the proposed tram road between Liverpool and Man- 
chester, and did not hesitate to state that he would 
thenceforward advocate the adoption of a locomotive 
railroad instead of the tramroad which had originally 
been proposed. 

Stephenson and Losh were naturally desirous of en- 
listing James's good services on behalf of their patent 
locomotive, for as yet it had proved comparatively 
unproductive. They believed that he might be able so 
to advocate it in influential quarters as to ensure its 
more extensive adoption, and with this object they pro- 
posed to give him an interest in their patent. Accord- 
ingly they assigned him one-fourth of the profits derived 
from the use of their patent locomotive on any lines 
which might be constructed south of a line drawn across 
England from Liverpool to Hull. The arrangement, 
however, led to no beneficial results. Mr. James endea- 
voured to introduce the engine on the Moreton-on- 
Marsh Railway ; but it was opposed by the engineer of 
the line, and the attempt failed. He next urged that 
a locomotive should be sent for trial upon the Merstham 
tramroad ; but, anxious though Stephenson was respect- 
ing its extended employment, he was too cautious to 
risk an experiment which might only bring discredit 
upon the engine ; and the Merstham road being only 

Till-: sriiYKY POUND IMIT.KI !: T. CHAP, X. 

laid with ra>f-iroii j.lntcs. \\liidi would not lu-;ir its 
\\viirlii. tin- invitation \v.-is declined. 

Il tnriird (Hit tliat the lirst >iir\vy of the Liverpool 

;iinl Manchester lim- \vas very imperfect, ;m<l it was 

drhTliiilU'd to havr a SCCOnd ;illl llioiv complete One 

made iii tin- following year. ]\ol><-rt Stephenson was 

sent over ly liis father to Liverpool to assist in tin's 
survey. He was present with Mr. James on the occa- 
sion on wln'cli lie tried to lav out the line across Chat 


Moss,- a proceeding which was not only difficult but 
dangerous. The Moss was very wet at the time, and 
only its ed^es could be ventured on. Mr. James was a 


lieavv, thick-set man ; and one dav, when endeavouring 

i - / 

to obtain a stand for his theodolite, he felt himself sud- 
denly sinking. He immediately threw himself down, 
and rolled over and over until he reached firm ground 
airain, in a sad mess. Other attempts which he subse- 
quently made to enter upon the Moss for the same pur- 
pose, were abandoned for the same reason- -the want 
of a solid stand for the theodolite. 

On the 4th October, 1822, we find Mr. James writing 
to Mr. Sandars, " I came last night to send my aid, 
Robert Stephenson, to his father, and to-morrow 1 
shall pay off Evans and Hamilton, two other assist- 
ants. I have now only Messrs. Padley and Clarke to 
finish the copy of plans for Parliament, which will 
be done in about a week or nine days' time." It 
would appear however, that, notwithstanding all his 
exertions, Mr. James was unable to complete his plans 
and estimates in time for the ensuing Session of Par- 
liament; and another year was thus lost. The Kail- 
road Committee became impatient at the delay. Mr. 
James's financial embarrassments reached their climax ; ] 

1 In 'The Two Jameses and the twenty years of age) to William 

Two Stephensons ' (London, 1861), James, dated Newcastle, August 29th, 

the following letter is given, from LS23 : "Dear Sir, It gives rise to 

Eobert Stephenson (then not quite feelings of true ic-rct when 1 reflect 




and, what with illness and what with debt, he was no 
longer in a position to fulfil his promises to the Com- 
mittee. They were, therefore, under the necessity of 
calling to their aid some other engineer. 

Mr. Sandars had by this time visited George Stephen- 
son at Killingworth, and, like all who came within reach 
of his personal influence, was charmed with him at first 
sight. The energy which he had displayed in carrying on 
the works of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, now 
approaching completion ; his readiness to face difficulties, 
and his practical ability in overcoming them ; the enthu- 
siasm which he displayed on the subject of railways and 
railway locomotion,- -concurred in satisfying Mr. Sandars 
that he was, of all men, the best calculated to help for- 
ward the Liverpool undertaking at this juncture. On 
his return he stated this opinion to the Committee, who 
approved his recommendation, and George Stephenson 
was unanimously appointed engineer of the projected 
railway. On the 25th May, 1824, Mr. Sandars writes 
to Mr. James,- -" I think it right to inform you that the 
Committee have engaged your friend Mr. George Ste- 
phenson. "We expect him here in a few days. The 
subscription list for 300, OOO/. is filled, and the Man- 
chester gentlemen have conceded to us the entire 
management. I very much regret that, by delay and 
promises, you have forfeited the confidence of the sub- 

on your situation; but yet a conso- 
lation arises when I consider your 
persevering spirit will for ever bear 
you up in the arms of triumph, in- 
stances of which I have witnessed of 
too forcible a character to be easily 
effaced from my memory. It is these 
thoughts, and these alone, that could 
banish from my soul feelings of despair 
for one, the respect I have for whom 
can be easier conceived than described, 
Can I forget the advice you have af- 
forded me in your letters? and what 
a heavenly inducement you pointed 
before me at the close, when you said 

that attention and obedience to my 
dear father would afford me music at 
midnight. Ah, and so it has already. 
.... My father and I set off for 
London on Monday next, on our way 
to Cork, Our return will probably be 
about the time you wish me to be at 
Liverpool. If all be right, we may 
possibly call and see what is going on. 
That line [the Liverpool and Man- 
chester] is the finest project in Eng- 
land. Hoping to see you and Mr. 
Padley in a few days, believe me, &c. 



< !HAP, X. 

seril'ers. I cannot help it. I fear im\v ilnii \<>u will 

only have tlie Dune (if I M 1 1 1 LT <'< H 1 1 1 -eled \V 1 1 1 1 tile enm- 

mencemenl >|' tin- undertaking." 

It will he observed that Mr. Sandars had held to liis 
nriirhml purpose with great determination and perse- 
verance, ;nnl lie gradually succeeded in enlisting on 
liis side nn increasing nuinlter of influential merchants 
;md manufacturers hoih ;>t Liverpool and Manchester, 
Karly in IS'Jt lie published a pamphlet, in whieh lie 
sir. mii'ly urged tlie great losses mid interruptions to the 
trade of tlie district by the delays in the forwarding of 
merchandise ; and in the same year he had a Public De- 


cl; i ration drawn up, and signed by upwards of 150 of the 
principal merchants of Liverpool, setting forth that they 
considered " the present establishments for the transport 
of goods quite inadequate, and that a new line of con- 
veyance has become absolutely necessary to conduct the 
increasing trade of the country with speed, certainty, 
and economy," 

A public meeting was then held to consider the best 
plan to be adopted, and resolutions were passed in favour 
of a railroad. A committee was appointed to take the 
necessary measures ; but, as if reluctant to enter upon 
their arduous struggle with the " vested interests," they 
first waited on Mr. Bradshaw, the Duke of Bridge- 
water's canal agent, in the hope of persuading him to 
increase the means of conveyance, as well as to reduce 
the charges ; but they were met by an unqualified 
refusal. They suggested the expediency of a railway. 

1 In 1858 Mr. Kobert Stephenson 
sent the author a large bundle of 
letters, which had been forwarded to 
him by Mr. Sandars, "descriptive of 
the birth and progress of the Liver- 
pool and Manchester Railway." In 
the letter accompanying them Mr. 
Stephenson said, " there is a bundle 
of James's, which characterise the 
man very clearly as a ready, dash- 

ing writer, but no thinker at all on 
tin- practical part of the subject he 
had taken up. It was the same with 
everything he touched. He never 
succeeded in anything, and yet pos- 
sessed a great deal of taking talent. 
His fluency of conversation I never 
heard equalled, and so you would 
judge from his letters." 


and invited Mr. Bradshaw to become a proprietor of 
shares in it. But his reply was " All or none !' The 
canal proprietors, confident in their imagined security, 
ridiculed the proposed railway as a chimera, It had 
been spoken about years before, and nothing had come 
of it then : it would be the same now. 

In order to form a better opinion as to the practica- 
bility of the railroad, a deputation of gentlemen inte- 
rested in the project proceeded to Killingworth, to in- 
spect the engines which had been so long in use there. 
They first went to Darlington, where they found the 
works of the Stockton line in progress, though still un- 
finished. Proceeding next to Killingworth with Mr. 
Stephenson, they there witnessed the performances of 
his locomotive engines. The result of their visit was, 
on the whole, so satisfactory, that on their report being 
delivered to the committee at Liverpool, it was finally 
determined to form a company of proprietors for the 
construction of a double line of railway between Liver- 
pool and Manchester. 

The first prospectus of the scheme was dated the 2 9th 
of October, 1824, and had attached to it the names of 
the leading merchants of Liverpool and Manchester. It 
was a modest document, very unlike the inflated balloons 
which were sent up by railway speculators in succeeding 
years. It set forth as its main object the establishment 
of a safe and cheap mode of transit for merchandise, by 
which the conveyance of goods between the two towns 
would be effected in five or six hours (instead of thirty- 
six hours, as by the canal), whilst the charges would be 
reduced one-third. On looking at the prospectus now, 
it is curious to note that, while the advantages antici- 
pated from the carriage of merchandise were strongly 
insisted upon, the conveyance of passengers- -which 
proved to be the chief source of profit- -was only very 
cautiously referred to. " As a cheap and expeditious 
means of conveyance for travellers," says the prospectus 


in eonrhiHon. "the railway holds out the fair prospect 
of a publie accommodation, tin- magnitude ami import- 
ance of \vliirli < -ainmi IK- immediately ascertained." The 

est imated expense of forming the line was set down at 
-100, ()()()/.,- a sum which was eventually found to he 
(jiiitr inadequate, The subscription list when opened 
was tilled iij without difficulty. 

While the project was still under discussion, its pro- 
moters, de-sirous of removing the doubts which existed 
as to the employment of steam power on the proposed 
railway, sent a second deputation to Killingworth 
for the purpose of again observing the action of Mr. 
Stephenson's engines. The deputation was on this 
occasion accompanied by Mr. Sylvester, an ingenious 
mechanic and engineer, who afterwards presented an 
able report on the subject to the committee. Mr. Syl- 
vester showed that the high-pressure engines employed 
by Mr. Stephenson were both safe and economical in 
their working. "\Vitli respect to the speed of the engines, 
he said :--" Although it would be practicable to goat 
any speed limited by the means of creating steam, the 
size of the wheels, and the number of strokes in the 
engine, it would not be safe to go at a greater rate than 
nine or ten miles an hour." 

Satisfactory though the calculations and statements of 
Mr. Sylvester were, the cautious projectors of the rail- 
way were not yet quite satisfied ; and a third journey 
was made to Killingworth, in January, 1825, by several 
gentlemen of the committee, accompanied by practical 
engineers, for the purpose of being personal eye-wit- 
nesses of what steam-carriages were able to perform 
upon a railway. There they saw a train, consisting of 
a locomotive and loaded waggons, weighing in all fifty- 
four tons, travelling at the average rate of about seven 
miles an hour, the greatest speed being about nine and 
a half miles an hour. But when the engine was run by 
itself, with only one waggon attached containing twenty 


gentlemen, five of whom were engineers, the speed 
attained was from ten to twelve miles an hour. 

In the mean time the survey was proceeded with, in 
the face of great opposition on the part of the proprietors 
of the lands through which the railway was intended to 
pass. The prejudices of the farming and labouring 
classes were strongly excited against the persons em- 
ployed upon the ground, and it was with the greatest 
difficulty that the levels could he taken. This opposition 
was especially manifested when the attempt was made 
to survey the line through the properties of Lords Derby 
and Sefton, and also where it crossed the Duke of 
Bridge water's canal. At Knowsley, Mr. Stephenson 
was driven off the ground by the keepers, and threatened 
with rough handling if found there again. Lord Derby's 
farmers also turned out their men to watch the survey- 
ing party, and prevent them entering upon any lands 
where they had the power of driving them off. After- 
wards, Mr. Stephenson suddenly and unexpectedly went 
upon the ground with a body of surveyors and their 
assistants, who out-numbered Lord Derby's keepers and 
farmers, hastily collected to resist them ; and this time 
they were only threatened with the legal consequences 
of their trespass. The same sort of resistance was 
offered by Lord Sefton's keepers and farmers, with whom 
the following ruse was adopted. A minute was con- 
cocted, purporting to be a resolution of the Old Quay 
Canal Company to oppose the projected railroad by 
every possible means, and calling upon landowners 
and others to afford every facility for making such a 
survey of the intended line as should enable the oppo- 
nents to detect errors in the scheme of the promoters, 
and thereby ensure its defeat. A copy of this minute, 
without any signature, was exhibited by the surveyors 
who went upon the ground, and the farmers, believing 
them to have the sanction of the landlords, permitted 

VOL. in. o 



( 'II AC. X. 

tlioni to proceed with the lm>iy completioD of iheir 

Tin- principal opposition, however, \v:is experienced 

from Mr. l>ra<lsha\v. the manager of the Duke nf 

Bridgewater's eanal property, who offered -\ vigorous an<l 
protraeted resistance to the survey in nil IN stages. The 
Duke's farmers obstinately nTusnl permission to enter 
upon their lidds, Although Mr. Stephenson offered to 

pavfor any damage tluit miirht be done. Mr. Bradshaw 
i i i 

positively refused liis sanction in any case; and bring a 
strict prrsrrvrr of game, with a large staff of keepers in 
his pay, he declared that he would order them to shoot 
or apprehend any persons attempting a survey over his 
property. But one moonlight night a survey was ob- 
tained by the following ruse. Some men, under the 
orders of the surveying party, were set to fire off guns 
in a particular quarter; on which all the gamekeepers 

on the watch made off in that direction, and thev were 

drawn away to such a distance in pursuit of the sup- 
posed poachers, as to enable a rapid survey to be made 
during their absence. 

Mr. Stephenson, afterwards describing before Parlia- 
ment the difficulties which he encountered in making 

the survey, said : " I w T as threatened to be ducked in 


the pond if I proceeded, and, of course, we had a 
great deal of the survey to take by stealth, at the 
time when the people were at dinner. AYe could not 
get it done by night : indeed, we were watched day 
and night, and guns were discharged over the grounds 

1 Mr. Sandars, when forwarding 
to Eobert Stephenson the original of 
this document (amongst the bundle of 
documents referred to in a previous 
note), added to it " The foregoing 
was written by me, and given to Mr. 
Oliver, one of the surveyors of the 
railway intended to pass through Lord 
Derby and Lord Sefton's property. 

Lord Sefton never spoke to me after- 
wards when he found out the ruse 
that had been practised. I little 
thought then that railways would in 
the end overwhelm me." Mr. Sandars 
died at Taplow, Bucks, a few years 
since, unhappily in very reduced cir- 


belonging to Captain Bradshaw to prevent us. I can 
state further that I was myself twice turned off Mr. 
Bradshaw' s grounds by his men ; and they said if I did 
not go instantly, they would take me up and carry me 
off to Worsley." 

When the canal companies found that the Liverpool 

merchants were determined to proceed with their scheme 

-that they had completed their survey, and were ready 

to apply to Parliament for an Act to enable them to 

form the railway- -they at last reluctantly, and with a 

C/ ft/ t- 1 ' - 

bad grace, made overtures of conciliation. They pro- 
mised to employ steam- vessels both on the Mersey and 
on the Canal. One of the companies offered to reduce 
its length by three miles, at a considerable outlay. At 
the same time they made a show of lowering their 
rates. But it was all too late ; for the project of the 
railway had now gone so far that the promoters (who 
might have been conciliated by such overtures at an 
earlier period) felt they were fully committed to it, 
and that now they could not well draw back. Besides, 
the remedies offered by the canal companies could 
only have had the effect of staving off the difficulty for 
a brief season,- -the absolute necessity of forming a 
new line of communication between Liverpool and 
Manchester becoming more urgent from year to year. 
Arrangements were therefore made for proceeding with 
the bill in the parliamentary session of 1825. 

On this becoming known, the canal companies pre- 
pared to resist the measure tooth and nail. The public- 
were appealed to on the subject ; pamphlets were writ- 
ten and newspapers were hired to revile the railway. 
It was declared that its formation would prevent cows 
grazing and hens laying. The poisoned air from the 
locomotives would kill birds as they flew over them, 
and render the preservation of pheasants and foxes no 
longer possible. Householders adjoining the projected 

o 2 


line were told lli;i1 their houses would be burnt up by 

flu- lire thrown from the engine-chimneys; while tin- 
nir around would he polluted by clouds of smoke. There 
would no longer lip any use for horses ; ;uid if railways 
extended, tlir speeies would become extinguished, ;md 
nuts ;md hav be rendered unsaleable commodities. Travel- 

linu'bv rail would be highly dangerous, and country inns 
would be ruined. Boilers would burst and blow pas- 
sengers to atoms. But there was alwavs tins consola- 


tion to wind up with- -that the weight of the locomotive 
would completely prevent its moving, and that rail- 
ways, even if made, could never be worked by steam- 

Nevertheless, the canal companies of Leeds. Liver- 
pool, and Birmingham, called upon every navigation 
company in the kingdom to oppose railways wherever 
they were projected, but more especially the Liverpool 
and Manchester scheme, the battle with which they 
evidently regarded as their Armageddon. A Birming- 
ham journal invited a combined opposition to the mea- 
sure, and a public subscription was entered into for the 
purpose of making it effectual. The newspapers gene- 
rally spoke of the project as a mere speculation ; some 
wishing it success, although greatly doubting ; others 
ridiculing it as a delusion, similar to the many other 


absurd projects of that madly-speculative period. It- 
was a time when balloon companies proposed to work 
passenger traffic through the air at forty miles an hour, 
and when coaching companies projected carriages to run 
on turnpikes at twelve miles an hour, with relays of 
bottled gas instead of horses. There were companies for 
the working of American gold and silver mines, com- 
panies for cutting ship canals through Panama and 
Nicaragua, milk companies, burying companies, fish 
companies, and steam companies of all sorts ; and many, 
less speculatively disposed than their neighbours, were 




ready to set down the projected railways of 1825 as mere 
bubbles of a similarly delusive character. 1 

Among the most sagacious newspaper articles of the 
day, calling attention to the application of the locomotive 
engine to the purposes of rapid steam-travelling on rail- 
roads, was a series which appeared in 1824, in the Scots- 
man newspaper, then edited by Mr. Charles Maclaren. 
In those publications the wonderful powers of the loco- 
motive were logically demonstrated, and the w r riter, 
arguing from the experiments 011 friction made more 
than half a century before by Yince and Coulomb, which 
scientific men seemed to have altogether lost sight of, 
clearly showed that, by the use of steam-pow r er on rail- 
roads, the more rapid, as well as cheaper, transit of 
persons and merchandise might be confidently antici- 

Not many years passed before the anticipations of the 
writer, sanguine and speculative though they were re- 
garded at the time, were amply realised. Even Mr. 
Nicholas Wood, in 1825, speaking of the powers of the 
locomotive, and referring doubtless to the speculations 
of the Scotsman as well as of his equally sanguine friend 
Stephensoii, observed " It is far from niy wish to pro- 
mulgate to the world that the ridiculous expectations, or 
rather professions, of the enthusiastic speculist will be 
realised, and that we shall see engines travelling at the 
rate of twelve, sixteen, eighteen, or twenty miles an 
hour. Nothing could do more harm towards their 
general adoption and improvement than the promul- 
gation of such nonsense." 

1 " Many years ago I met in a 
public library with a bulky volume, 
consisting of the prospectuses of va- 
rious projects bound up together, and 
labelled, ' Some of the bubbles of 
1825.' Among the projects thus 
described, was one that has since 
been productive of the greatest and 
most rapid advance in the social condi- 

tion of mankind effected since the first 
dawn of civilisation : it was the plan 
of the Company for constructing a 
railway between Liverpool and Man- 
chester."- -W. B. Hodge, in ' Journal 
of the Institute of Actuaries,' No. 40, 
July, 1860. 

2 Wood on Kailroads. Ed. 1825, 
p. 290. 

198 sn; JOHN l'..\i;i;o\vs VIEWS. CHAP.X. 

Indeed, when .Mi\ Stephenson, ;it the interviews with 
counsel, held previous t> tin- Liverpool and Manchester 

lull LT< >i ii LI* mi" Committee < >! the House < >l Commons, << >n- 


lideiilly staled his expectation of heing ahle to impel 
his locomotive ;it the rate of twentv miles an hour. Mr. 


\Villi:un Brougham. wh<> w;is rci;iiii(.'il l>\ the promoters 


to eoi!<liiet their ease, frankly told him that if lie did not 


moderate his views, and hri'iiir liis engine within a 
;>,,//,////, speed, he would " inevitably damn the whole 
thin^. and he himself regarded as a maniac fit onlv 
for r>edlam." 

Amongst the papers left by Mr. Bandars we find a 
letter addressed to him by Sir John Barrow of the 
Admiralty, as to the proper mode of conducting the case 
in Parliament, which pretty accurately represents the 
state of public opinion as to the practicability of loco- 
motive travelling on railroads, at the time at which it 
was written, the 10th of January, 1825. Sir John 

u * 

strong! v uru'ed Mr. Sandars to keep the locomotive alto- 
gether in the background,- -to rely upon the proved 
inability of the canals and common roads to accommodate 
the existing traffic,--and to be satisfied with proving the 
;d (solute necessity of a new line of conveyance ; above 
all, he recommended him not even to hint at the intention 
of carrying passengers. " My objection to great speed 
being attended with danger," said he, "applies only to 
the conveyance of passengers, and not to vehicles ap- 
pended to the extremity of a long string of waggons, in 
which, however, I still think you will not get many who 
will suffer themselves to be conveyed even at the rate of 
eight miles an hour, amidst the hissing noise and the 
dense smoke of their own and other passing engines. . . 
I think it would be wise, for the present at least, to give 
up the passengers, for it is there you will fail, if you 
persevere. You will at once raise a host of enemies in 
the proprietors of coaches, post-chaises, innkeepers, &c., 
whose interests will be attacked, and who, I have no 


doubt, will be strongly supported, and for what ? Some 
thousands of passengers, you say- -but a few hundreds / 
should say- -in the year." He accordingly urged that 
passengers as well as speed should be kept entirely out of 
the act ; but if the latter were insisted on, then he re- 
commended that it should be kept as low as possible- 
say at five miles an hour. 

The idea thrown out by Stephenson, of travelling 
at a rate of speed double that of the fastest mail-coach, 
appeared at the time so preposterous that he was unable 
to find any engineer who would risk his reputation in 
supporting such " absurd views." Speaking of his iso- 
lation at the time, he subsequently observed, at a public 
meeting of railway men in Manchester : " He remem- 
bered the time when he had very few supporters in 
bringing out the railway system- -when he sought 
England over for an engineer to support him in his 
evidence before Parliament, and could find only one 
man, James Walker, but was afraid to call that gentle- 
man, because be knew nothing about railways. He had 
then no one to tell his tale to but Mr. Sandars, of 
Liverpool, who did listen to him, and kept his spirits 
up ; and his schemes had at length been carried out 
only by dint of sheer perseverance." 

George Stephenson' s idea was at that time regarded 
as but the dream of a chimerical projector. It stood 
before the public friendless, struggling hard to gain 
a footing, and scarcely daring to lift itself into no- 
tice for fear of ridicule. The civil engineers generally 
rejected the notion of a Locomotive Railway; and when 
110 leading man of the day could be found to stand for- 
ward in support of the Killiiigworth mechanic, its chances 
of success must indeed have been pronounced but small. 

When such was the hostility of the civil engineers, no 
wonder the reviewers were puzzled. The ' Quarterly,' 
in an able article in support of the projected Liverpool 
and Manchester Railway,- -while admitting its absolute 




necessity, &&d insisting that there was no choice left but 
;i railroad. <>n which the journey between Liverpool and 
Manchester, whether performed by horses or engines, 
would always IK- accomplished " within the day," 
oevertheless scouted llio idea of travelling at a greater 
speed than eight or nine miles an hour. Adverting to 
a project for forming a railway to Woolwich, by which 
passengers were to be drawn by locomotive engine-. 
moving with twice the velocity of ordinary coaches, the 
reviewer observed :--" What can be more palpably 
absurd and ridiculous than the prospect held out of 
locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage-coaches! 
We would as soon expect the people of AVoolwich to 
suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congreve's 
ricochet rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy of such 
a machine going at such a rate. We will back old 
Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any 
sum. We trust that Parliament will, in all railways it 
may sanction, limit the speed to eight or nine miles an 
liur, which we entirely agree with Mr. Sylvester is as 
great as can be ventured on with safety." 






THE Liverpool and Manchester Bill went into Committee 
of the House of Commons on the 21st of March, 1825. 
There was an extraordinary array of legal talent on the 
occasion, but especially on the side of the opponents to 
the measure. Their wealth and influence enabled them 
to retain the ablest counsel at the bar ; Mr. (afterwards 
Baron) Alderson, Mr. Stephenson, Mr. (afterwards Baron) 
Parke, Mr. Rose, Mr. Macdonnell, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Erie, 
and Mr. Cullen, made common cause with each other in 
their opposition to the bill ; the case for which was con- 
ducted by Mr. Adam, Mr. Serjeant Spankie, Mr. William 
Brougham, and Mr. Joy. 

Evidence was taken at great length as to the difficulties 
and delays in forwarding raw goods of all kinds from 
Liverpool to Manchester, as also in the conveyance of 
manufactured articles from Manchester to Liverpool. 
The evidence adduced in support of the bill on these 
grounds was overwhelming. The utter inadequacy of 
the existing modes of conveyance to carry on satisfactorily 
the large and rapidly-growing trade between the tw T o 
towns was fully proved. But then came the gist of the 
promoters' case- -the evidence to prove the practicability 
of a railroad to be worked by locomotive power. Mr. 
Adam, in his opening speech, referred to the cases of 
the Hetton and the Killing-worth railroads, where heavy 
goods were safely and economically transported by means 
of locomotive engines. " None of the tremendous con- 
sequences," he observed, " have ensued from the use of 
steam in land carriage that have been stated. The 


horses have nt si.-n-trd. nor tin- cows ceased t<> iriv<- iln-ir 

lllilk. DOT liavr ladirs liMM-iilTird ;it the siglil of ihrsr 

tilings -'(.iiiLi- for\v;ird ;it the rate of four miles and ;i li;ilt 

, i 

;m hour." Notwithstanding ihr jirtitiun of i\v<> Ladies 
;dlr:_ni!Lr I 1 ,,,, pvat danger to lie apprehended from tin- 
l>iir>iin-- of iln- locomotive hoilers, lir nrp'd lh<- safety 

of ihr high-pressure engine when tlie boilers were con- 


Mrurtt-d dt' wrought-iron ; and as to iln- rate at which 
they could travel, lie expressed his lull conviction that 
Mirli engines "could supply force to drive a carriage at 
the rate of five or six miles an hour." 

The taking of the evidence as to the impediments 
thrown in the way of trade and commerce by the existing 
>vstem extended over a month, and it was the 21st of 
April before the Committee went into the engineering 
evidence, which was the vital part of the question. 

On the 25th, George Stephenson was called into the 
witness-box. It was his first appearance before a Com- 
mittee of the House of Commons, and he well knew 
what he had to expect. He was aware that the whole 
force of the opposition was to be directed against him ; 
and if thev could break down his evidence, the canal 


monopoly might yet be upheld for a time. Many years 
afterwards, when looking back at his position on this 
trying occasion, he said :--" When I went to Liverpool 
to plan a line from thence to Manchester, I pledged 
myself to the directors to attain a speed of ten miles an 
hour. I said I had no doubt the locomotive might be 
made to go much faster, but that we had better be mo- 
derate at the beginning. The directors said I was quite 
right; for that if, when they went to Parliament, I 
talked of going at a greater rate than ten miles an hour, 
I should put a cross upon the concern. It was not an 
easy task for me to keep the engine down to ten miles 
an hour, but it must be done, and I did my best. I had 
to place myself in that most unpleasant of all positions- 
the witness-box of a Parliamentary Committee. I was 


not long iii it, before I began to wish for a hole to creep 
out at ! I could not find words to satisfy either the 
Committee or myself. I was subjected to the cross- 
examination of eight or ten barristers, purposely, as far 
as possible, to bewilder me. Some member of the Com- 
mittee asked if I was a foreigner, and another hinted 
that I was mad. But I put up with every rebuff, 
and went on with my plans, determined not to be put 

Mr. Stephenson stood before the Committee to prove 
what the public opinion of that day held to be impos- 
sible. The self-taught mechanic had to demonstrate 
the practicability of accomplishing that which the most 
distinguished engineers of the time regarded as im- 
practicable. Clear though the subject was to himself, 
and familiar as he was with the powers of the locomotive, 
it was no easy task for him to bring home his convictions, 
or even to convey his meaning, to the less informed 
minds of his hearers. In his strong Northumbrian 
dialect, he struggled for utterance, in the face of the 
sneers, interruptions, and ridicule of the opponents of 
the measure, and even of the Committee, some of whom 
shook their heads and whispered doubts as to his sanity, 
when he energetically avowed that he could make the 
locomotive go at the rate of twelve miles an hour ! It 
was so grossly in the teeth of all the experience of 
honourable members, that the man " must certainly be 
labouring under a delusion ! ' 

And yet his large experience of railways and locomo- 
tives, as described by himself to the Committee, entitled 
this "untaught, inarticulate genius," as he has so well 
been styled, to speak with confidence on such a subject. 
Beginning with his experience as a brakesman at 
Killingworth in 1803, he went on to state that he 
was appointed to take the entire charge of the steam- 
engines in 1813, and had superintended the railroads con- 
nected with the numerous collieries of the Grand Allies 


from that time downwards. He had laid <l<>\vn or 

superintended tin- railways ;it I Jurrad' ui, Mount Moor, 

Sprinirwell, nedliiiirtoii, Hetton, and Darlington, Usidr> 
iiii|n>\ ing those at Killingworth, South Moor, and 
herwent Crook. He had constructed fifty-live steam- 
engines, of wliicli sixteen were locomotives. Some of 


these liad been sent to France. The engines constructed 
ly him for the working of the Killingworth Jvailroad, 
eleven years before, had continued steadily at work ever 
>ince, and fulfilled his most sanguine expectations. He 
was prepared to prove the safety of working high- 
pressure locomotives on a railroad, and the superiority 
of this mode of transporting goods over all others. A s 
to speed, he said he had recommended eight miles an 
hour with twenty tons, and four miles an hour with 
forty tons ; but he was quite confident that much more 
might be done. Indeed, he had 110 doubt they might 
go at the rate of twelve miles. As to the charge that 
locomotives on a railroad would so terrify the horses in 
the neighbourhood, that to travel on horseback or to 
plough the adjoining fields would be rendered highly 
dangerous, the witness said that horses learnt to take no 
notice of them, though there were horses that w^ould shy 
at a wheelbarrow. A mail-coach w^as likely to be more 
shied at by horses than a locomotive. In the neigh- 
bourhood of Killingworth, the cattle in the fields went 
on grazing while the" engines passed them, and the 
farmers made no complaints. 

Mr. Alderson, who had carefully studied the subject, 
and was well skilled in practical science, subjected the 
witness to a protracted and severe cross-examination as 
to the speed and power of the locomotive, the stroke of 
the piston, the slipping of the wheels upon the rails, 
and various other points of detail. Mr. Steplienson 
insisted that no slipping took place, as attempted to be 
extorted from him by the counsel. He said ; " It is 
impossible for slipping to take place so long as the 


adhesive weight of the wheel upon the rail is greater 
than the weight to be dragged after it." There was a 
good deal of interruption to the witness's answers by 
Mr. Alder son, to which Mr. Joy more than once 
objected. As to accidents, Mr. Stephensoii knew of 
none that had occurred with his engines. There had 
been one, he was told, at the Middleton Colliery, near 
Leeds, with a Bleiikinsop engine. The driver had been 
in liquor, and put a considerable load on the safety- 
valve, so that upon going forward the engine blew up 
and the man was killed. But he added, if proper pre- 
cautions had been used with that boiler, the accident 
could not have happened. The following cross-exami- 
nation occurred in reference to the question of speed :- 

" Of course," he was asked, " when a body is moving 
upon a road, the greater the velocity the greater the 
momentum that is generated ? ' " Certainly." -" What 
would be the momentum of forty tons moving at the 
rate of twelve miles an hour ? ' "It would be very 
great." -" Have you seen a railroad that would stand 
that?" " Yes." " Where ?" " Any railroad that 
would bear going four miles an hour : I mean to say, 
that if it would bear the weight at four miles an hour, 
it would bear it at twelve." -" Taking it at four miles 
an hour, do you mean to say that it would not require a 
stronger railway to carry the same weight twelve miles 
an hour ? ' "I will give an answer to that. I dare 
say every person has been over ice when skating 1 , or 
seen persons go over, and they know that it would bear 
them better at a greater velocity than it would if they 

o J J 

went slower ; when they go quick, the weight in a 
measure ceases." "Is not that upon the hypothesis 
that the railroad is perfect ? ' " It is ; and I mean to 
make it perfect." 

It is not necessary to state that to have passed such 
an ordeal scatheless, needed no small amount of courage, 
intelligence, and ready shrewdness on the part of the 

206 YI:I;Y A\VK\V.\I;D roi; "THE coo." CHAP. XT. 

witness. Xieliolas Wood, who was present on lln- 
occasion, lias since staled lliat the point mi which 
StephenSOn Was liardeM pressed was tliat of speed. " I 

believe," lie says, "that it would Lave lost tlie Company 
their Mill it' lie liad gone beyond eight or nine miles an 
hour. I flic had stated liis intention of going twelve or 
fifteen miles an hour, not - ( \ single |>ei-son would liaye 
believed it to be ] n'acl ical >le." Mr. Alderson, liad. 
indeed, so pressed 1lie point of "twelve miles an hour," 
and tlie promoters were so alarmed lest it should appear 
in evidence lliat they contemplated any such extravagant 
rate of speed, that immediately on Mr. Aklerson. sitting 
down, Mr. Joy proceeded to re-examine Mr. Stephenson, 
with the view of removing from the minds of the 
Committee an impression so unfavourable, and, as was 
supposed, so damaging to their case. " With regard," 
asked Mr. Joy, " to all those hypothetical questions of 
my learned friend, they have been all put on the sup- 
position of going twelve miles an hour : now that is not 
the rate at which, I believe, any of the engines of which 
you have spoken have travelled ?" " No," replied 
Mr. Stephenson, " except as an experiment for a short 
distance." " But what they have gone has been three, 
five, or six miles an hour ? ' " Yes."" So that those 
hypothetical cases of twelve miles an hour do not fall 
within your general experience ? ' " They do not." 

The Committee also seem to have entertained some 
alarm as to the high rate of speed which had been 
spoken of, and proceeded to examine the witness further 
on the subject. They supposed the case of the engine 
being upset when going at nine miles an hour, and 
asked what, in such a case, would become of the cargo 
astern. To which the witness replied that it would not 
be upset. One of the members of the Committee pressed 
the witness a little further. He put the following 
case : " Suppose, now, one of these engines to be going 
alone; a railroad at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, 

c_ / / 


and that a cow were to stray upon the line and get in 
the way of the engine ; would not that, think you, be a 
very awkward circumstance?' "Yes," replied the 
witness, with a twinkle in his eye, " very awkward 
-for the coo ! ' The honourable member did not pro- 
ceed further with his cross-examination ; to use a 
railway phrase, he was " shunted." Another asked if 
animals would not be very much frightened by the 
engine passing at night, especially by the glare of the 
red-hot chimney ? " But how would they know that it 
was'nt painted ? ' said the witness. 

On the following day (the 26th April), Mr. Stephenson 
was subjected to a very severe examination. On that 
part of the scheme with which he was most practically 
conversant, his evidence was clear and conclusive. Now, 
he had to give evidence on the plans made by his 
surveyors, and the estimates which had been founded on 


such plans. So long as he was confined to locomotive 
engines and iron railroads, with the minutest details of 
which he was more familiar than any man living, he 
felt at home, and in his element. But when the designs 
of bridges and the cost of constructing them had to be 
gone into, the subject being in a great measure new to 
him, his evidence was much less satisfactory. 

Mr. Alder son cross-examined him at great length on 
the plans of the bridges, the tunnels, the crossings of 

the roads and streets, and the details of the survey, 


which, it soon clearly appeared, were in some respects 
seriously at fault. It seems that, after the plans had 
been deposited, Mr. Stephenson found that a much more 
favourable line might be made ; and he made his esti- 
mates accordingly, supposing that Parliament would not 
confine the Company to the precise plan which had been 
deposited. This w^as felt to be a serious blot in the par- 
liamentary case, and one very difficult to be got over. 

For three entire days was Mr. Stephenson subjected 
to cross-examination by Mr. Alderson, Mr. Cullen, and 


the oilier leading counsel for the opposition. He held 
his Around liravcly. and defended the ]>l;ins ;uid esti- 
mates with remarkable ;dilitv and skill ; l)iit it was 


dear they were imperfect, and tlic result was on the 
whole damaging to tlic hill. Mr. (afterwards Sir 
William) Cubitt was called by the promoters,- -Mr. 
Adam stating- flint lie proposed by this witness to correct 
some of the levels as g-iven by Mr. Stephenson. It 
seems a singular course to have Leen taken by the 
promoters of the measure; for Mr. Cubitt's evidence 
went to upset the statements mnde by Mr. Stephen- 
son as to the survey. This adverse evidence was. 


of course, made the most of by the opponents of the 

Mr. Serjeant Spankie then summed up for the bill, < >i i 
the 2nd of May, in a speech of great length ; and the 
case of the opponents was next gone into, Mr. Harrison 
opening with a long and eloquent speech on behalf of 
his clients, Mrs. Atherton and others. He indulged 
in strong vituperation against the witnesses for the 
bill, and especially dwelt upon the manner in which 
Mr. Cubitt, for the promoters, had proved that Mr. 
Stephenson's levels were wrong 1 . " They got a person," 
said he, "whose character and skill I do not dispute, 
though I do not exactly know that I should have gone 
to the inventor of the treadmill as the fittest man to 
take the levels of Knowsley Moss and Chat Moss, 
which shook almost as much as a treadmill, as you 


recollect, for he (Mr. Cubitt) said Chat Moss trembled 
so much under his feet that he could not take his 

observations accurately In fact, Mr. Cubitt did 

not go on to Chat Moss, because he knew that it was 
an immense mass of pulp, and nothing else. It actually 
rises in height, from the rain swelling it like a sponge, 
and sinks again in dry weather ; and if a boring instru- 
ment is put into it, it sinks immediately by its own 
weight. The making of an embankment out of this 


pulpy, wet moss, is no very easy task. Who but Mr. 
Stephenson would have thought of entering into Chat 
Moss, carrying it out almost like wet dung ? It is 
ignorance almost inconceivable. It is perfect madness, 
in a person called upon to speak on a scientific subject, 

to propose such a plan Every part of the scheme 

shows that this man has applied himself to a subject of 
which he has no knowledge, and to which he has no 
science to apply." Then adverting to the proposal to 
work the intended line by means of locomotives, the 
learned gentleman proceeded : " When we set out with 
the original prospectus, we were to gallop, I know not 
at what rate ;- -I believe it was at the rate of twelve 
miles an hour. My learned friend, Mr. Adam, con- 
templated- -possibly alluding to Ireland- -that some of 
the Irish members would arrive in the waggons to a 
division. My learned friend says that they would go at 
the rate of twelve miles an hour with the aid of the 
devil in the form of a locomotive, sitting as postilion on 
the fore horse, and an honourable member sitting behind 
him to stir up the fire, and keep it at full speed. But 
the speed at which these locomotive engines are to go 
has slackened : Mr. Adam does not go faster now than 
five miles an hour. The learned serjeant (Spankie) says 
he should like to have seven, but he would be content 
to go six. I will show he cannot go six ; and probably, 
for any practical purposes, I may be able to show that 

I can keep up with him by the canal Locomotive 

engines are liable to be operated upon by the weather. 
You are told they are affected by rain, and an attempt 
has been made to cover them ; but the wind will affect 
them ; and any gale of wind which would affect the traffic 
on the Mersey would render it impossible to set off a loco- 
motive engine, either by poking of the fire, or keeping 
up the pressure of the steam till the boiler was ready to 
burst." How amusing it now is to read these extra- 
ordinary views as to the formation of a railway over 
VOL. in. P 


( 1 liat Moss, and the impossibility of start! nu* ;i locomotive 

< i 

ill tlic faee of II LTalr of willd ! 

I ' 

Evidence was called to show that the house prop:-rtv 
hv the projiox-d railway would be greatly deterio- 
rated -in some jl;irrs almost < l< -st l - o\'< 'd ; th;it the 

loromotive engines would 1)C tcrrihle nuisances, in 
consequence of the fire and smoke vomited forth l>v 

them ; and that the v;dile of land in the neighbourhood 
of Maiiehester alone Would he deteriorated 1)V Ho less 


than 20,000 ! Evidence was also given at great length 
showing the utter impossibility of forming a road of 
any kind upon Chat Moss. A Manchester builder, who 
was examined, could not imagine the feat possible, unless 
by arching it across in the manner of a viaduct from 
one side to the other. It was the old storv of " nothing 

J O 

like leather." But the opposition mainly relied upon 
the evidence of the leading engineers- -not, like Mr. 
Stephenson, self-taught men, but regular professionals. 
Mr. Francis Giles, C.E., was their great card. He had 
been tw r enty-two years an engineer, and could speak 
with some authority. His testimony w r as mainly directed 
to the utter impossibility of forming a railway over Chat 
Moss. " No engineer in his senses," said he, " would go 
through Chat Moss if he wanted to make a railroad 
from Liverpool to Manchester In my judg- 
ment a railroad certainly cannot be safely made over Chat 
][oss without going to the bottom of the Moss. The soil 
ought all to be taken out, undoubtedly ; in doing which, 
it will not be practicable to approach each end of the 
cutting, as you make it, with the carriages. No car- 
riages would stand upon the Moss short of the bottom. 
My estimate for the whole cutting and embankment 
over Chat Moss is 270,000/. nearly, at those quantities 

and those prices which are decidedly correct 

It w r ill be necessary to take this Moss completely out at 
the bottom, in order to make a solid road." 

Mr. H. R. Palmer, C.E., gave evidence to prove that 


resistance to a moving body going under four and a 
quarter miles an hour was less upon a canal than upon a 
railroad ; and that, when going against a strong wind, 
the progress of a locomotive was retarded " very much." 
Mr. George Leather, C.E.. the engineer of the Croydon 

O O i/ 

and Wandsworth Railway, on which he said the waggons 
went at from two and a half to three miles an hour, also 
testified against the practicability of Mr. Stephenson's 
plan. He considered his estimate a " very wild ' one. 
He himself had no confidence in locomotive power. The 
Weardale Railway, of which he was engineer, had 
given up the use of locomotive engines. He supposed 
that, when used, they travelled at three and a half to 
four miles an hour, because they were considered to be 
then more effective than at a higher speed. 

When these distinguished engineers had given their 
evidence, Mr. Alderson summed up in a speech which 
extended over two days. He declared Mr. Stephenson's 
plan to be " the most absurd scheme that ever entered 
into the head of man to conceive. My learned friends," 
said he, " almost endeavoured to stop my examination ; 
they wished me to put in the plan, but I had rather 
have the exhibition of Mr. Stephenson in that box. I 
say he never had a plan- -I believe he never had one 
I do not believe he is capable of making one. His is a 
mind perpetually fluctuating between opposite difficulties : 
he neither knows whether he is to make bridges over 
roads or rivers, of one size or of another ; or to make 
embankments, or cuttings, or inclined planes, or in what 
way the thing is to be carried into effect. Whenever a 
difficulty is pressed, as in the case of a tunnel, he gets 
out of it at one end, and when you try to catch him at 
that, he gets out at the other." Mr.. Alderson proceeded 
to declaim against the gross ignorance of this so-called 
engineer, who proposed to make " impossible ditches by 
the side of an impossible railway ' through Chat Moss ; 
and he contrasted with his evidence that given "by 

p 2 


that mosi ivvprrtaMr gentleman we have r;dl<-d In-fore 
von. I mean Mr. (I ilr^. \vlm h;is executed ;i vast Dumber 

<f Works." &C. Then Ml 1 . Giles's evidence IIS 1<> the 

inn>t>v>ililitv <>t' making anv railway Over tin- Mnss that 


would stand short of the Ixiitom, \v;is emphatically dwelt 
upon ; and Mr. A Mrrsmi proceeded to say,- -" Having 

now. sir. u'one tl in nigh ( 1 li:it Moss, ;md having shown 
thai Mr. (I Mrs is right in his principle when he ado|l> 
a solid railway. and I rare not ^lictlu-r ]\Ir. (Jilcs is 


riirlii orwrong in liis estimate, for Avlicilicr it lc effected 
l>y iiK'ans of pici-s raised up all the way for four miles 
tlmm^li Cliat Moss, whether they are to support it on 
beams of wood or by erecting masonry, or whether 
Mr. Giles shall put a solid bank of earth through it,- 
in all these schemes there is not one found like that of 
Mr. Stephenson's, namely, to cut impossible drains on 
the side of this road ; and it is sufficient for me to suggest 
and to show, that this scheme of Mr. Stephenson's is 
impossible or impracticable, and that no other scheme, 
if they proceed upon this line, can be suggested which 
will not produce enormous expense. I think that has 
been irrefragably made out. Every one knows Chat 
Moss every one knows that Mr. Giles speaks correctly 
when he says the iron sinks immediately on its being 
put upon the surface.^ I have heard of culverts, which 
have been put upon the Moss, which, after having been 
surveyed the day before, have the next morning dis- 
appeared; and that a house (a poet's house, who may 
be supposed in the habit of building castles even in the 
air), story after story, as fast as one is added, the lower 
one sinks ! There is nothing, it appears, except long 
sedgy grass, and a little soil, to prevent its sinking into 
the shades of eternal night. I have now done, sir, with 
Chat Moss, and there I leave this railroad." Mr. 
Alderson, of course, called upon the Committee to reject 
the Bill ; and he protested " against the despotism of the 
Exchange at Liverpool striding across the land of this 


country. I do protest," he concluded, " against a measure 
like this, supported as it is by such evidence, and founded 
upon such calculations." 

The case of the other numerous petitioners against 
the bill still remained to be gone into. Witnesses were 
called to prove the residential injury which would be 
caused by the " intolerable nuisance " of the smoke and 
fire from the locomotives ; and others to prove that the 
price of coals and iron would " infallibly ' be greatly 
raised throughout the country. This was part of the 
case of the Duke of Bridge water's trustees, whose wit- 
nesses " proved " many very extraordinary things. The 
Leeds and Liverpool Canal Company were so fortunate 
as to pick up a witness from Hetton, who was ready 
to furnish some damaging evidence as to the use of 
Stephenson's locomotives on that railway. This was 
Thomas Wood, one of the Hetton company's clerks, 
whose testimony was to the effect that the locomotives, 
having been found ineffective, were about to be dis- 
continued in favour of fixed engines. The evidence of 
this witness, incompetent though he was to give an 
opinion on the subject, and exaggerated as his statements 
were afterwards proved to be, was made the most of by 
Mr. Harrison, when summing up the case of the canal 
companies. " At length," he said, " we have come to 
this,- -having first set out at twelve miles an hour, the 
speed of these locomotives is reduced to six, and now 
comes down to two or two and a half. They must be 
content to be pulled along by horses and donkeys ; and 
all those fine promises of galloping along at the rate of 
twelve miles an hour are melted down to a total failure 

-the foundation on which their case stood is cut from, 
under them completely ; for the Act of Parliament, the 
Committee will recollect, prohibits any person using 
any animal power, of any sort, kind, or description, 
except the projectors of the railway themselves ; there- 
fore, I say, that the whole foundation on which this 


prj. et exists i> gone." After further personal abuse <>\' 
Mr. Stephenson, whose evidence In- spoke ( f us "trash 

;ili<l ci ill I ilsii in. lie Closed ill' 1 < - M>e o| llic c;i MM I << iinj ci n i< > 
on the -iOlli of May. Mr. Ad;iin replied f<.r tin- pro- 
moter-, recapitulating iln- prineipid points of their case, 
:iml vindicating Mr. Stephenson Mini tin- evidence which 
lu- had given In-fore tlic ( Committee. 

Tin- Committee then divided on the preamble, which 
WMS CM Tried l>y M majority of only orb thirty-seven 
voting for it, ami thirty-six against it. The clau-e- 
were next considered, and on a division the iirst ehni . 
empowering tlie Company to make the railwMy, Avas 
lost by a majority of nineteen to thirteen. In lilce 
manner, the next clause, empowering the Company to 
take land, was lost ; on which Mr. Adam, on the part 
of the promoters, withdrew the hill. 

Thus ended this memorable contest, which had ex- 
tended over two months carried on throughout witli 
great pertinacity and skill, especially on the part of the 
opposition, who left 110 stone unturned to defeat the 
measure. The want of a third line of communication 
between Liverpool and Manchester had been clearly 
proved ; but the engineering evidence in support of the 
proposed railway having been thrown almost entirely 
upon Stephenson, who fought this, the most important 
part of the battle, single-handed, was not brought out so 
clearly as it would have been had he secured more efficient 
engineering assistance- -which lie was not able to do, as 
the principal engineers of that day were against tlie 
locomotive railway. The obstacles thrown in the way 
of the survey by the landowners and canal companies, 
by which the plans were rendered exceedingly imper- 
fect, also tended in a great measure to defeat the bill. 

Mr. G-ooch says the rejection of the bill was probably 
the most severe trial George Stephenson underwent in 
the course of his whole life. The circumstances con- 
nected wiih the defeat of the measure, the errors in tlie 




levels, his rigid cross-examination, followed by the 
fact of his being superseded by another engineer, all 
told fearfully upon him, and for some time he was as 
much weighed down as if a personal calamity of the 
most serious kind had befallen him. It is also right to 
add that he was badly served by his surveyors, who 
were unpractised and incompetent. On the 27th of 
September, 1824, we find him writing to Mr. Sandars : 
"I am quite shocked with Auty's conduct; we must 
throw him aside as soon as possible. Indeed, I have 
begun to fear that he has been fee'd by some of the 
canal proprietors to make a botch of the job. I have a 
letter from Steele, 1 whose views of Auty's conduct quite 
agree with yours." 

The result of this first application to Parliament was 
so far discouraging. Mr. Stephenson had been so 
terribly abused by the leading counsel for the opposition 
in the course of the proceedings before the Committee 
-stigmatised by them as an ignoramus, a fool, and a 
maniac- -that even his friends seem for a time to have 
lost faith in him and in the locomotive system, whose 
efficiency he nevertheless continued to uphold. Things 
never looked blacker for the success of the railway sys- 
tem than at the close of this great parliamentary struggle. 
And yet it was on the very eve of its triumph. 

The Committee of Directors appointed to watch the 
measure in Parliament were so determined to press on 
the project of a railway, even though it should have to 
be worked merely by horse-power, that the bill had 
scarcely been thrown out ere they met in London to con- 

1 Hugh. Steele and Elijah Galloway 
had conducted the survey at one 
part of the line, and Messrs. Oliver 
and Blackett at another. The former 
couple seem to have made some 
grievous blunder in the levels on 
Chat Moss, and the circumstance 
weighed so heavily on Steele's mind 
that, shortly alter hearing of the re- 

jection of the Bill, he committed suicide 
in Stephenson's office at Newcastle. 
Mr. Gooch informs us that this un- 
happy affair served to impress upon the 
minds of Stephenson's other pupils the 
necessity of ensuring greater accuracy 
and attention in future, and that the 
lesson, though sad, was not lost upon 


sider their next sic].. They called their parliamentary 
friends together to consult as to future proceedings. 
Amoncr those- who attended the meeting of gentlemen 

o o 

witli tliis ol.jrrt, in the Royal Hotel, St. James's Street, 
on the 4th of June, were Mr. Iluskisson, Mr. Spring 
Kiev, ;n id General Gascoyne. Mr. Huskisson urged 
the promoters to renew their application to Parliament. 
They had secured the first step by the passing of their 
preamble ; the measure was of great public importance ; 
and whatever temporary opposition it might meet with, 
he conceived that Parliament must ultimately give its 
sanction to the undertaking. Similar views were ex- 
pressed by other speakers ; and the deputation went 
back to Liverpool determined to renew their application 
to Parliament in the ensuing session. 

It was not considered desirable to employ Mr. Stephen- 
son in making the new survey. He had not as yet 
established his reputation as an engineer beyond the 
boundaries of his own district ; and the promoters of the 
bill had doubtless felt the disadvantages of this in the 
course of their parliamentary struggle. They therefore 
resolved now to employ engineers of the highest estab- 
lished reputation, as well as the best surveyors that 
could be obtained. In accordance with these views 
they engaged Messrs. George and John Remiie to be 
the engineers of the railway ; and Mr. Charles Yignolles, 
on their behalf, was appointed to prepare the plans and 
sections. The line which was eventually adopted dif- 
fered somewhat from that surveyed by Mr. Stephenson 
-entirely avoiding Lord Sefton's property, and passin 

through only a few detached fields of Lord Derby's at a 
considerable distance from the Knowsley domain. The 
principal game-preserves of the district were carefully 
avoided. The promoters thus hoped to get rid of the 
opposition of the most influential of the resident land- 
owners. The crossing of certain of the streets of Liver- 
pool was also avoided, and the entrance contrived by 


means of a tunnel and an inclined plane. The new line 
stopped short of the river Irwell at the Manchester end, 
by which the objections grounded on an illegal interrup- 
tion to the canal or river traffic were in some measure 
removed. With reference to the use of the locomotive 
engine, the promoters, remembering with what effect 
the objections to it had been urged by the opponents 
of the bill, intimated, in their second prospectus, that 
" as a guarantee of their good faith towards the public 
they will not require any clause empowering them to 
use it ; or they will submit to such restrictions in the 
employment of it as Parliament may impose, for the 
satisfaction and ample protection both of proprietors on 
the line of road and of the public at large." 

It was found that the capital required to form the 
line of railway, as laid out by the Messrs. Rennie, 
was considerably beyond the amount of Stephenson's 
estimate, and it became a question with the Committee 
in what way the new capital should be raised. A pro- 
posal was made to the Marquis of Stafford, who was 
principally interested in the Duke of Bridge water's 
Canal, to become a shareholder in the railway. A 
similar proposal, it will be remembered, had at an earlier 
period been made to Mr. Bradshaw, the trustee for the 
property ; but his answer was " all or none," arid the 
negotiation was broken off. The Marquis of Stafford, 
however, now met the projectors of the railway in a 
more conciliatory spirit ; and it was ultimately agreed 
that he should become a subscriber to the extent of a 
thousand shares. 

The survey of the new line having been completed, 
the plans were deposited, the standing orders duly com- 
plied with, and the bill went before Parliament. The 
same counsel appeared for the promoters, but the exa- 
mination of witnesses was not nearly so protracted as 
on the previous occasion. Mr. Erie and Mr. Harrison 
led the case of the opposition. The bill went into Com- 


mittee on till' (illi of Maivh. ;inl on tlic HJlli the 
preiiml'le was d< vl;t n -i 1 proved by II lliaj< M'ity of I'orty- 

three to eighteen, On the third reading in tin- II<n-<- 


of Commons. ;in animated, and what no\v appears a 
very amusing, discussion look place. The Hon. Edward 

Stanley moved that the bill In- rend that day six months ; 

and in the course of liis speech he undertook to prove 
tliat the railway trains would take ten hour* on the 
journey, and that they could only be worked hy horse-. 
Sir I>aac Coi'liii seconded the motion, and in doing so 
denounced the project as a most flagrant imposition. 
He would not consent to see widows' premises invaded ; 
and "What, he would like to know, was to be done 
with all these who had advanced money in making and 
repairing turnpike-roads ? What with those who may 
still wish to travel in their own or hired carriages, after 
the fashion of their forefathers? What was to become 
of coach-makers and harness-makers, coach-masters and 
coachmen, inn-keepers, horse-breeders, and horse-dealers? 
Was the House aware of the smoke and the noise, the 
hiss and the whirl, which locomotive engines, passing 
at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, would occa- 
sion ? Neither the cattle ploughing in the fields or 
grazing in the meadows could behold them without 
dismay. Iron would be raised in price 100 per cent., 
or more probably exhausted altogether! It would be 
the greatest nuisance, the most complete disturbance of 
quiet and comfort in all parts of the kingdom, that the 
ingenuity of man could invent ! ' 

Mr. Huskisson and other speakers, though unable to 
reply to such arguments as these, strongly supported 
the bill ; and it was carried on the third reading by a 
majority of eighty-eight to forty -one. The bill passed 
the House of Lords almost unanimously, its only oppo- 
nents being the Earl of Derby and his relative the Earl 
of Wilton. The cost of obtaining the Act amounted to 
the enormous sum of 27,000/. 




THE selection of principal engineer of the railway was 
taken into consideration at the first meeting of the 
directors held at Liverpool subsequent to the passing of 
the Act of incorporation. The magnitude of the pro- 
posed works, and the vast consequences involved in the 
experiment, were deeply impressed upon their minds ; 
and they resolved to secure the services of a resident 
engineer of proved experience and ability. Their atten- 
tion was naturally directed to Mr. Stephenson ; at the 
same time they desired to have the benefit of the Messrs. 
Rennie's professional assistance in superintending the 
works. Mr. George Rennie had an interview with the 
board on the subject, at which he proposed to undertake 
the chief superintendence, making six visits in each year, 
and stipulating that he should have the appointment of 
the resident engineer. But the responsibility attaching 
to the direction in the matter of the efficient carrying 
on of the works, would not admit of their being in- 
fluenced by ordinary punctilios on the occasion ; and 
they accordingly declined Mr. Rennie's proposal, and 
proceeded to appoint Mr. Stephenson their principal 
engineer at a salary of 10 GO/, per annum. 

He at once removed his residence to Liverpool, and 
made arrangements to commence the works. He began 
with the " impossible thing ' -to do that which the 
most distinguished engineers of the day had declared 
that " no man in his senses would undertake to do ' 
namely, to make the road over Chat Moss ! It was 
indeed a most formidable undertaking' ; and the project 


of carrying a railwav alonir. under, <>r over siidi ;i mate- 

rial as tliat of whieh it mn.viMed, would rertainlv never 


have occurred to an ordinary mind. Midiad Dravton 


supposed the Mo-s to have had its origin at the Delude. 
Nothing more impassable could have been imagined 
than that dreary waste; and Mr. Giles only spoke the 
popular feeling of the day when lie declared tliat no 
(.arriap.- could stand on it 4 ' short of the bottom." In 
this l.o^, singular to say, Mr. Roscoe, the accomplished 
historian of the Medicis, buried his fortune in the hope- 

> attempt to cultivate a portion of it which he had 

Chat Moss is an immense peat-bog of about twelve 
square miles in extent. Unlike the bogs or swamps of 
Cambridge and Lincolnshire, which consist principally 
of soft mud or silt, this bog is a vast mass of sponiry 
vegetable pulp, the result of the growth and decay of 
ages. The spagni, or bog-mosses, cover the entire area ; 
one year's growth rising over another, the older 
growths not entirely decaying, but remaining partially 
preserved by the antiseptic properties peculiar to peat. 
Hence the remarkable fact that, although a semifluid 
mass, the surface of Chat Moss rises above the level of 
the surrounding country. Like a turtle's back, it declines 
from the summit in every direction, having from thirty 
to forty feet gradual slope to the solid land on all sides. 
From the remains of trees, chiefly alder and birch, 
which have been dug out of it, and which must have 
previously flourished upon the surface of soil now deeply 
submerged, it is probable that the sand and clay base 
on which the bog rests is saucer-shaped, and so retains 
the entire mass in position. In rainy weather, such is 
its capacity for water that it sensibly swells, and rises in 
those parts where the moss is the deepest. This occurs 
through the capillary attraction of the fibres of the sub- 
merged moss, which is from twenty to thirty feet in 
depth, whilst the growing plants effectually check evapo- 


ration from the surface. This peculiar character of the 
Moss has presented an insuperable difficulty in the way 
of reclaiming it by any system of extensive drainage- 
such as by sinking shafts in its substance, and pumping 
up the water by steam power, as has been proposed by 
some engineers. Supposing a shaft of thirty feet deep 
to be sunk, it has been calculated that this would only 
be effectual for draining a circle of about one hundred 
yards, the water running down an incline of about 5 to 
1 ; for it was found in the course of draining the bog, 
that a ditch three feet deep only served to drain a space 
of less than five yards on either side, and two ditches of 
this depth, ten feet apart, left a portion of the Moss 
between them scarcely affected by the drains. 

The three resident engineers selected by Mr. Stephen- 
son to superintend the construction of the line, were 
Mr. Joseph Locke, Mr. Allcard, and Mr. John Dixon. 
The last was appointed to that portion which included 
the proposed road across the Moss, the other two being 
by no means desirous of exchanging posts with him. 
On Mr. Dixon' s arrival, about the month of July, 1826, 
Mr. Locke proceeded to show him over the length 
he was to take charge of, and to instal him in office. 
When they reached Chat Moss, Mr. Dixon found that 
the line had already been staked out and the levels 
taken in detail by the aid of planks laid upon the bog. 
The cutting of the drains along each side of the proposed 
road had also been commenced ; but the soft pulpy stuff 
had up to this time flowed into the drains and filled 
them up as fast as they were cut. Proceeding across 
the Moss, on the first day's inspection, the new resident, 
when about half-way over, slipped off the plank on 
which he walked, and sank to his knees in the bog. 
Struggling only sent him the deeper, and he might 
have disappeared altogether, but for the workmen, 
who hastened to his assistance upon planks, and rescued 
him from his perilous position. Much disheartened, he 


to return. :nnl even I'm- lli<- momenl thought of 


giving up the job ; hut Mr. Locke assured liim thai the 
wu>i j;irt \\;i> now jiiist: so the Qew residenl plucked 
up In-art again. ami hoth floundered <>n unlil they 

reached the 1'iirtlK-r edge of the M<>><. \\-ci imd pla>ter> <l 


over \vitli hog sludge. Mr. Dixon's companions rndra- 

voured to eoml'nrt liim by the assurance that he might 

in future avoid similar perils. hy walking upon " pattens," 
OT 1 oards fa-tciicil to the soles of his fuet, as tln-y liad 
dour Avliun lakinir the levels, and as the workmen <li<l 
Avlien cngap''! in making drains in tlie softest parts of 
the Mo>s. Still tliu resident engineer could not help 
being puzzled by the problem of how to construct a 
ioad for heavy locomotives, with trains of passenger- 
and goods, upon a bog which he had found incapable of 
supporting his single individual weight ! 

Mr. Stephenson's idea was, that such a road might be 
made to float upon the bog, simply by means of a 
sufficient extension of the bearing surface. As a ship, 
or a raft, capable of sustaining heavy loads, floated in 
water, so in bis opinion, might a light road be floated 
upon a bog, which was of considerably greater con- 
sistency than water. Long before the railway was 
thought of, Mr. Roscoe had adopted the remarkable 
expedient of fitting his plough horses with flat wooden 
soles or pattens, to enable them to walk upon the Moss 
land which he had brought into cultivation. These 
pattens were fitted on by means of a screw apparatus, 
which met in front of the foot and was easily fastened. 
The mode by which these pattens served to sustain the 
horse is capable of easy explanation, and it will be 
observed that the rationale alike explains the floating of 
a railway train. The foot of an ordinary farm horse 
presents a base of about five inches diameter, but if this 
base be enlarged to seven inches- -the circles being to 
each other as the squares of the diameters- -it will be 
found that, by this slight enlargement of the base, a 




circle of nearly double the area has been secured ; and 
consequently the pressure of the foot upon every unit of 
ground upon which the horse stands has been reduced 
one half. In fact, this contrivance has an effect tanta- 
mount to setting the horse upon eight feet instead of four. 

Apply the same reasoning to the ponderous locomotive, 
and it will be found, that even such a machine may be 
made to stand upon a bog, by means of a similar 
extension of the bearing surface. Suppose the engine 
to be twenty feet long and five feet wide, thus covering 
a surface of a hundred square feet, and, provided the 
bearing has been extended by means of cross sleepers 
supported upon a matting of heath and branches of 
trees covered with a few inches of gravel, the pressure 
of an engine of twenty tons will be only equal to about 
three pounds per inch over the whole surface on which 
it stands. Such was George Stephenson's idea in con- 
triving his floating road- -something like an elongated 
raft across the Moss ; and we shall see that he steadily 
kept it in view in carrying the work into execution. 

The first thing done was to form a footpath of ling or 
heather along the proposed road, on which a man might 
walk without risk of sinking. A single line of tem- 
porary railway was then laid down, formed of ordinary 
cross-bars about three feet long and an inch square, 
with holes punched through them at the end and nailed 
down to temporary sleepers. Along this way ran the 
waggons in which were conveyed the materials requisite 
to form the permanent road. These waggons carried 
about a ton each, and they were propelled by boys 
running behind them along the narrow bar of iron. 
The boys became so expert that they would run the four 
miles across at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour 
without missing a step ; if they had done so, they would 
have sunk in many places up to their middle. 1 The 

1 \Yheii the Liverpool directors 
went to inspect the works in progress 

ou the Moss, they were run along the 
temporary rails in the little three-feet 




slight extension of the bearing surface was thus sufficient 


to Mi;il>]r the 1 M -' 1< hear tills trill] >< ra ry lilK', and the 

circumstance was ;i source of inn-rased confidence and 
liupp to our engineer in proceeding with the formation 
of the permanent road alongside. 

The diiLTiLriii.U' of drains had been proceeding for some 
time alonir earli side of the intended railway : but 


they filled up almost as soon as dutr, the sides flowing 
in, and the bottom rising up ; and it was only in some 
of the drier parts of the hog that a depth of three or 
four feet could he reached. The surface-ground between 
the drains, containing the intertwined roots of heather 
and long grass, was left untouched, and upon this was 
spread branches of trees and hedge-cuttings ; in the 
softest places rude gates or hurdles, some eight or nine 
feet long by four feet wide, interwoven with heather, 
were laid in double thicknesses, their ends overlapping 
each other ; and upon this floating bed was spread a 
thin layer of gravel, on which the sleepers, chairs, and 
rails were laid in the usual manner. Such was the 
mode in which the road was formed upon the Moss. 

It was found, however, after the permanent road had 
been thus laid, that there was a tendency to sinking at 
those parts where the bog was the softest. In ordinary 
cases, where a bank subsides, the sleepers are packed up 
with ballast or gravel ; but in this case the ballast was 
dug away and removed in order to lighten the road, and 
the sleepers were packed instead with cakes of dry turf 
or bundles of heath. By these expedients the subsided 
parts were again floated up to the level, and an approach 
was made towards a satisfactory road. But the most 
formidable difficulties were encountered at the centre 


used for forming the 
road. They were being thus impelled 
one day at considerable speed, when 
the waggon suddenly ran off the road, 
and Mr. Moss, one of the directors, 
was thrown out in a soft place, from 

which, however, he was speedily ex- 
tricated, not without leaving his deep 
mark. George used afterwards laugh- 
ingly to refer to the circumstance as 
" the meeting of the Mosses." 


and towards the edges of the Moss ; and it required no 
small degree of ingenuity and perseverance on the part 
of the engineer successfully to overcome them. 

The Moss, as has been alreadv observed, was highest 

/ o 

in the centre, and it there presented a sort of hunchback 
with a rising and falling gradient. At that point it 
was found necessary to cut deeper drains in order to 
consolidate the ground between them on which the road 
was to be formed. But, as at other parts of the Moss, 
the deeper the cutting the more rapid was the flow of 
fluid bog into the drain, the bottom rising up almost as 
fast as it was removed. To meet this emergency, a 
quantity of empty tar-barrels was brought from Liver- 
pool ; and as soon as a few yards of drain were dug, the 
barrels were laid down end to end, firmly fixed to each 
other by strong slabs laid over the joints, and nailed ; 
they were then covered over with clay, and thus formed 
an underground sewer of wood instead of bricks. This 
expedient was found to answer the purpose intended, 
and the road across the centre of the Moss having thus 
been prepared, it was then laid with the permanent 

The greatest difficulty was, however, experienced in 
forming an embankment upon the edge of the bog at 
the Manchester end. Moss as dry as it could be cut, 
was brought up in small waggons, by men and boys, 
and emptied so as to form an embankment ; but the bank 
had scarcely been raised three or four feet in height, 
when the stuff broke through the heathery surface of the 
bog and sunk overhead. More moss was brought up 
and emptied in with no better result ; and for many 
weeks the filling was continued without any visible 
embankment having been made. It was the duty of 
the resident engineer to proceed to Liverpool every fort- 
night to obtain the wages for the workmen employed 

o / 

under him ; and on these occasions he was required to 
colour up, on a section drawn to a working scale sns- 


226 TI1K 1M!;K(T<I!S I'.KCnMK A LA 1!M KI>. CHAI>. XII. 

priided against the wall of tin- directors' room, flic 

amount of excavation, embankment, eve., executed IVom 
time to time. But on many of these occasions, Mr. 
Hixou Lad no progress whatever to show for the money 
expended upon 1he ( liat Moss embankment. Sometimes, 
indeed, tlie visible work done was Axv than it liad 
appeared a fortnight or a month before ! 

The directors now became seriously alarmed, and 
feared that the evil prognostications of the eminent 
engineers were about to be fulfilled. The resident 

himself was greatly disheartened, and he was even called 


upon to supply the directors with an estimate of the cost 
of filling up the Moss with solid stuff from the bottom, 
as also the cost of piling the roadway, and in effect, 
constructing a four mile viaduct of timber across the 
Moss, from twenty to thirty feet high. But the expense 
appalled the directors, and the question then arose, 
whether the work was to be proceeded with or aban- 
doned ! 

Mr. Stephenson himself afterwards described the alarm- 
ing position of affairs at a public dinner given at 
Birmingham, on the 23rd of December, 1837, on the 
occasion of a piece of plate being presented to his son, 
on the completion of the London and Birmingham Rail- 
way. He related the anecdote, he said, for the purpose 
of impressing upon the minds of those wlio heard him 
the necessity of perseverance. 

" After working for w r eeks and weeks," said he, " in 
filling in materials to form the road, there did not yet 
appear to be the least sign of our being able to raise the 
solid embankment one single inch ; in short we went on 
filling in without the slightest apparent effect. Even 
my assistants began to feel uneasy, and to doubt of the 
success of the scheme. The directors, too, spoke of it as 
a hopeless task : and at length they became seriously 
alarmed, so much so, indeed, that a board meeting was 
held on Chat Moss to decide whether I should proceed 


any farther. They had previously taken the opinion of 
other engineers, who reported unfavourably. There 
was no help for it, however, but to go on. An immense 
outlay had been incurred ; and great loss would have 
been occasioned had the scheme been then abandoned, 
and the line taken bv another route. So the directors 


were compelled to allow me to go on with my plans, of 
the ultimate success of which I myself never for one 
moment doubted. v 

During the progress of this part of the works, the 
Worsley and Trafford men, who lived near the Moss, 
and plumed themselves upon their practical knowledge 
of bog- work, declared the completion of the road to be 
utterly impracticable. " If you knew as much about 
Chat Moss as we do," they said, " you would never have 
entered on so rash an undertaking ; and depend upon 
it, all you have done and are doing will prove abortive. 
You must give up altogether the idea of a floating rail- 
way, and either fill the Moss up with hard material 
from the bottom, or else deviate the line so as to avoid 
it altogether." Such were the conclusions of science 
and experience. 

In the midst of all these alarms and prophecies of 
failure, Stephenson never lost heart, but held to his 
purpose. His motto was " Persevere ! '' " You must 
go on filling in," he said ; " there is 110 other help for it. 
The stuff emptied in is doing its work out of sight, and 
if you will but have patience, it will soon begin to 
show." And so the filling in went on ; several hundreds 
of men and boys were employed to skin the Moss all 
round for many thousand yards, by means of sharp 
spades, called by the turf-cutters " tommy-spades ; ' and 
the dried cakes of turf were afterwards used to form 
the embankment, until at length as the stuff sank and 
rested upon the bottom, the bank gradually rose above 
the surface, and slowly advanced onwards, declining in 
height and consequently in weight, until it became 

Q 2 

228 I 'AIM. 1 MoSS. CHAP. XII. 

joined |o the lloatillL;- ro;id ;ilrc;idy laid Upon lilt' Moss. 

Iii tlir course <>!' forming tin- embankment, tin- pressure 

of tin- hog turf tipped out of the wagons caused a 
copious stream of hoir-water 1<> llo\v from the end of if. 
in colour resembling Barclay's douhle stout ; and when 

t t 

completed, the hank looked like a lonir ridge of tightly 
piv->rd tobacco-leaf. Tin- compression of the turf may 
he understood from the I'act that (570, 000 cuhic yards of 
raw moss formed only 277,000 cuhie yards of emhank- 
ment at the completion of the work. 

At the western, or Liverpool end of the Chat Moss, 
there was a like embankment; hut, as the ground was 
there solid, little difficulty was experienced in forming- 
it, beyond the loss of substance caused by the oozing out 

of the water held by the moss-earth. 


At another part of the Liverpool and Manchester 
line. Parr Moss was crossed by an embankment about a 

c- 1 

mile and a half in extent. In the immediate neighbour- 
hood was found a large excess of cutting, which it would 
have been necessary to " put out in spoil banks " (accord- 
ing to the technical phrase), hut for the convenience of 
Parr Moss, into which the surplus clay, stone, and shale, 
were tipped, waggon after waggon, until a solid but 
concealed embankment, from fifteen to twenty-five feet 
high, was formed, although to the eye it appears to be 
laid upon the level of the adjoining surface, as at Chat 

The road across Chat Moss was finished by the 1st of 
January, 1830, when the first experimental train of pas- 
sengers passed over it, drawn by the " Rocket ; ' and it 
turned out that, instead of being the most expensive 
part of the line, it was about the cheapest. The total 
cost of forming the line over the Moss was 28,000/., 
whereas Mr. Giles's estimate was 270,000/. ! It also 
proved to be one of the best portions of the railway. 
Being a floating road, it was smooth and easy to run 
upon, just as Dr. Arnott's water-bed is soft and easy to 


lie upon- -the pressure being equal at all points. There 
was, and still is, a sort of springiness in the road over 
the Moss, such as is felt when passing along a suspended 
bridge ; and those who looked along the line as a train 
passed over it, said they could observe a waviness, such 
as precedes and follows a skater upon ice. 

During the progress of these works the most ridiculous 
rumours were set afloat. The drivers of the stage-coaches 
who feared for their calling, brought the alarming intel- 
ligence into Manchester from time to time, that " Chat 
Moss was blown up ! " Hundreds of men and horses 
had sunk in the bog ; and the works were completely 
abandoned ! The engineer himself was declared to 
have been swallowed up in the Serboniaii bog ; and 
" railways were at an end for ever ! ' 


In the construction of the railway, Mr. Stephenson's 
capacity for organising and directing the labours of a 
large number of workmen of all kinds eminently dis- 
played itself. A vast quantity of ballast-waggons had 
to be constructed for the purposes of the work, and im- 
plements and materials had to be collected, before the 
mass of labour to be employed could be efficiently set in 
motion at the various points of the line. There were 
not at that time, as there are now, large contractors 
possessed of railway plant, capable of executing earth- 
works on a lar^e scale. The first railway engineer had 

O t, C_} 

not only to contrive the plant, but to organise the 
labour, and direct it in person. The very labourers 
themselves had to be trained to their work by him ; 
and it w T as on the Liverpool and Manchester line that 
Mr. Stephensoii organised the staff of that formidable 
band of railway navvies, whose handiworks will be the 
wonder and admiration of succeeding generations. Look- 
ing at their gigantic traces, the men of some future age 
may be found to declare, of the engineer and of his 
workmen, that " there were giants in those days." 

Although the works of the Liverpool and Manchester 


Haihvav are of a nmeh less Formidable character than 


those of many lines that have since been constructed, 
they were then regarded as of the most stupendous 
description. Indeed, the like of them had not before 
been executed in England. Several of the heaviest and 
most expensive works were caused by the opposition of 
Lords Derby and Sefton, whose objections to the line 
passing near or through their properties forced it more 
to the south, and thereby involved much tunnelling 
and heavy stone cutting. It had been our engineer's 
original intention to carry the railway from the north 
end of Liverpool, round the red-sandstone ridge on 
which the upper part of the town is built, and also 
round the higher rise of the coal formation at Rainhill, 
by following the natural levels to the north of Knowsley. 
But the line having been forced to the south, it was 
rendered necessary to cut through the -hills, and go over 
the high grounds instead of round them. The first 
consequence of this alteration in the plans was the 
necessity for constructing a tunnel under the town of 
Liverpool a mile and a half in length, from the docks at 
AVapping to the top of Edgehill ; the second was the 
necessity for forming a long and deep cutting through 
the red-sandstone rock at Olive Mount ; and the third 
and worst of all, was the necessity for ascending and 

it O 

descending the Whiston and Sutton hills by means of 
inclined planes of 1 in 96. The line was also, by the 
same forced deviation, prevented passing through the 
Lancashire coal-field, and the engineer was compelled to 
carry it across the Sankey valley, at a point where the 
waters of the brook had dug out an excessively deep 
channel through the marl-beds of the district. 

The principal difficulty was experienced in pushing 
on the works connected with the formation of the tunnel 
under Liverpool, 2200 yards in length. The blasting 
and hewing of the rock were vigorously carried on 
night and day : and the engineer's practical experience 


in the collieries here proved of great use to him. Many 
obstacles had to be encountered and overcome in the 
formation of the tunnel, the rock varying in hardness 
and texture at different parts. In some places the 
miners were deluged by water, which surged from the 
soft blue shale found at the lowest level of the tunnel. 
In other places, beds of wet sand were cut through ; 
and there careful propping and pinning were necessary 
to prevent the roof from tumbling in, until the masonry 
to support it could be erected. On one occasion, while 
Mr. Stephenson was absent from Liverpool, a mass of 
loose moss-earth and sand fell from the roof, which 
had been insufficiently propped. The miners withdrew 
from the work ; and on the engineer's return, he found 
them in a refractory state, refusing to re-enter the 
tunnel. He induced them, however, by his example, to 
return to their labours ; and when the roof had been 
secured, the work went on again as before. When there 
was danger, he was always ready to share it with the 
men ; and gathering confidence from his fearlessness, 
they proceeded vigorously with the undertaking, boring 
and mining their way towards the light. 

The Olive Mount cutting was the first extensive 
stone cutting executed 011 any railway, and to this day 
it is one of the most formidable. It is about two miles 
long, and in some parts more than a hundred feet deep. 
It is a narrow ravine or defile cut out of the solid rock ; 
and not less than four hundred and eighty thousand 
cubic yards of stone were removed from it. Mr. Vig- 
nolles, afterwards describing it, said it looked as if it 

had been dug out by giants. 

The crossing of so many roads and streams involved 
the necessity for constructing an unusual number of 
bridges. There were not fewer than sixty-three, under 
or over the railway, on the thirty miles between Liver- 
pool and Manchester. Up to this time, bridges had 
lieeii applied generally to high roads, where inclined 




approaches were <>f comparatively small importance, ;ml 
in determining tin 1 rise of his arch the engineer selected 
any headway he thought proper. Kvery consideration 
\va> indeed made subsidiary to constructing the bridge 
itself, and the completion of one large structure of this 
sort was regarded as an epoch in engineering history. 

Vet lii-re, in the course of a few vears, no fewer than 


[ I'e-rcival S kelson.] 

sixty-three bridges were constructed on one line of rail- 
way Mr. Stephenson early found that the ordinary 
arch was inapplicable in certain cases, where the head- 
way was limited, and yet the level of the railway must 
be preserved. In such cases he employed simple cast- 
iron beams, by which he safely bridged gaps of moderate 




VIADUCT [By Percival Skelton.] 

width, economizing headway, and introducing; tlie use 

c_!) */ * 

of a new material of the greatest possible value to the 
railway engineer. The bridges of masonry upon the 
line were of many kinds ; several of them askew bridges, 
and others, such as those at Newton and over the Irwell 
at Manchester, were straight and of considerable dimen- 
sions. But the principal piece of masonry on the line 
was the Sankey viaduct. 

This fine work is principally of brick, with stone 
facings. It consists of nine arches of fifty feet span 
each. The massive piers are supported 011 two hundred 
piles driven deep into the soil ; and they rise to a great 
height,- -the coping of the parapet being seventy feet 
above the level of the vallev, in which flow the Sankev 

t/ 2 f 

brook arid canal. Its total cost was about 45,OQO/. 


l>y the end of Is2s the directors found they had ex- 
pended H'iO.000/. on the works, and tlnit they were still 
far from completion. They looked at the loss of interest 

on tin's larire investment, and be^an to ernimble at the 

. * c < i 

delay. They desired to see their capital becoming 
productive; and in the spring of 1829 they urged the 
engineer to rmsh on the works with increased vigour. Mr. 

O 1 O 

Cropper, one of the directors, who took an active interest 
in their progress, said to Stephenson one day, " Now, 
George, tliou must get on with the railway, and have it 
finished without further delay : thou must really have it 
ready for opening by the first day of January next." 
" Consider the heavy character of the works, sir, and 
how much we have been delayed by the want of money, 
not to speak of the wetness of the weather : it is im- 
possible." " Impossible !' rejoined Cropper; "I wish 
I could get Xapoleon to thee- -he would tell thee there 
is no such word as ' impossible ' in the vocabulary." 
" Tush ! " exclaimed Stephenson, with warmth ; "don't 
speak to me about Napoleon ! Give me men, money, 
and materials, and I will do what Napoleon could'nt do 
-drive a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester over 
Chat Moss ! ' And truly the formation of a high road 
over that bottomless bog was, apparently, a far more 
difficult task than the hewing even of Napoleon's far- 
famed road across the Simplon. 

The directors had more than once been embarrassed 
by want of funds to meet the heavy expenditure. The 
country had scarcely yet recovered from the general 
panic and crash of 1825 : and it was with difficulty that 
the calls could be raised from the shareholders. A loan 
of 100, OOO/. was obtained from the Exchequer Loan 
Commissioners in 1826; and in 1829 an Act was 
passed enabling the company to raise further capital, 
to provide working plant for the railway. Two Acts 
were also obtained during the progress of the works, 


enabling deviations and alterations to be made ; one to 
improve the curves and shorten the line near Rainhill, 
and the other to carry the line across the Irwell into 
the town of Manchester. Thanks to the energy of the 
engineer, the industry of his labourers, and the improved 
supply of money by the directors, the railway made 
rapid progress in the course of the year 1829. Double 
sets of labourers were employed on Chat Moss and at 
other points, in carrying on the works by night and 
day, the night shifts working by torch and fire light; 
and at length, the work advancing at all points, the 
directors saw their way to the satisfactory completion of 
the undertaking. 

It may well be supposed that Mr. Stephenson's time 
was fully occupied in superintending the extensive, and 
for the most part novel works, connected with the rail- 
way, and that even his extraordinary powers of labour 
and endurance were taxed to the utmost during the four 
years that they were in progress. Almost every detail 
in the plans was directed and arranged by himself. 
Every bridge, from the simplest to the most compli- 
cated, including the then novel structure of the " skew 
bridge," iron girders, siphons, fixed engines, and the 
machinery for working the tunnel at the Liverpool end, 
had to be thought out by his ow r n head, and reduced 
to definite plans under his own eyes. Besides all this, 
he had to design the working plant in anticipation of 
the opening of the railway. He must be prepared 
with w^aggons, trucks, and carriages, himself superin- 
tending their manufacture. The permanent road, turn- 
tables, switches, and crossings, - - in short, the entire 
structure and machinery of the line, from the turning of 
the first sod to the running of the first train of carriages 
upon the railway,- -went on under his immediate super- 
vision. And it was in the midst of this vast accumula- 
tion of work and responsibility that the battle of the 


locomotive engine had to be fought. ;i battle, not merely 
against material difficulties, 1'iit against the still more 

trying obstructions of deeply-rooted mistrust and prejudice 

on tin- ]>;irt of a considerable minon'ty of the directors. 
Pie had no stall' of experienced assistants,- not even 

a staff of draughtsmen in his office, -hut only a few 
pupils learning their business; and he was frequently 
without even their help. The time of his engineering 
inspectors was fully occupied in the actual superintend- 
ence of the works at different parts of the line; and he 
took cure to direct all their more important operations 
in person. He had brought three young men from 
Newcastle with him- -fellow-pupils in the workshops 
there- -by name Joseph Locke, Thomas L. Gooch, and 
William A Heard. These were afterwards joined by 
John Dixon, and at a later period by Frederick Swan- 
wick. Locke, Allcard, and Dixon, were appointed to 
superintend the work at different parts of the line ; 
whilst Gooch resided with Mr. Stephenson, and officiated 
as his sole draughtsman and secretary from the com- 
mencement of the works in 1826, until April, 1829, 
when he proceeded to take charge of another undertaking. 
" I may say," writes Mr. Gooch, " that the whole of the 
working and other drawings, as well as the various 
land-plans for the railway, were drawn by my own 
hand. They were done at the Company's office in Clay- 
ton Square during the day, from instructions supplied 
in the evenings by Mr. Stephenson, either by word of 
mouth, or by little rough hand sketches on letter-paper. 
The evenings were also generally devoted to my duties 
as secretary, in writing (mostly from his own dictation) 
his letters and reports, or in making calculations and 
estimates. The mornings before breakfast were not 
unfrecjueiitly spent by me in visiting and lending a 
helping hand in the tunnel and other works near Liver- 
pool,- -the untiring zeal and perseverance of George 




Stephenson never for an instant flagging, and inspiring 
with a like enthusiasm all who were engaged under him 
in carrying; forward the works.' 

t/ CJ 

The usual routine of his life at this time- -if routine it 
might he called- was, to rise early, hy sunrise in summer 
and before it in winter, and thus "break the back of 
the day's work ' by mid-day. While the tunnel under 
Liverpool was in progress, one of his first duties in a 
morning before breakfast was to go over the various 
shafts, clothed in a suitable dress, and inspect the pro- 
gress of the work at different points ; on other days he 
would visit the extensive workshops at Edgehill, where 
most of the " plant ' for the line was manufactured. 
Then, returning to his house, in Upper Parliament 
Street, Windsor, after a hurried breakfast, he would ride 
along the works to inspect their progress, and push them 
on with greater energy where needful. On other days 
he would prepare for the much less congenial engage- 
ment of meeting the Board, which was often a cause of 
great anxiety and pain to him ; for it wns difficult to 
satisfy men of all tempers, and some of these not of the 
most generous sort. On such occasions he might be 
seen with his right-hand thumb thrust through the top- 
most button-hole of his coat-breast, vehemently hitching 
his right shoulder, as was his habit when labouring 
under any considerable excitement. Occasionally he 
would take an early ride before breakfast, to inspect the 
progress of the Sankey viaduct. He had a favourite 
horse, brought by him from Newcastle, called " Bobby," 
so tractable that, with his rider on his back, he would 

1 Mr. Gooch's Letter to the author, 
December 13th, 1861. Referring to 
the preparation of the plans and draw- 
ings, Mr. Gooch adds, " When we con- 
sider the extensive sets of drawings 
which most engineers have since found 
it right to adopt in carrying out simi- 
lar works, it is not the least surprising 
feature in George Stephenson's early 
professional career, that he should 

have been able to confine himself to 
so limited a number as that which 
could be supplied by the hands of one 
person in carrying out the construc- 
tion of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Railway; and this may still be said, 
after full allowance is made for the 
alteration of system involved by the 
adoption of the large contract system." 





walk up to a locomotive with the steam blowing off, and 
put his nose against it without shying. " Bobby," 
saddled and bridled, was brought to Mr. Stephenson's 
door betimes in the morning ; and mounting him, he 
would ride the fifteen miles to Sankey, putting up at a 
little public house which then stood upon the banks of 
the canal. There he had his breakfast of " crowdie," 
which he made with his own hands. It consisted of 
oatmeal stirred into a basin of hot water, a sort of 
porridge, - - which was supped with cold sweet milk. 
After this frugal breakfast, he would go upon the works, 
and remain there, riding from point to point for the 
greater part of the day. If he returned home before 
mid-day, it would be to examine the pay-sheets in the 
different departments, sent in by the assistant engineers, 
or by the foremen of the workshops ; all this he did 
himself, with the greatest care, requiring a full explana- 
tion of every item. 

After a late dinner, which occupied very short time 
and was always of a plain and frugal description, 1 he 

1 While at Liverpool, Steplienson but on one particular occasion he in- 
had very little time for " company ; " vited his friend Mr. Sandars to din- 




would proceed to dispose of Iris correspondence, or pre- 
pare sketches of drawings, and give instructions as to 
their completion. He would occasionally refresh himself 
for this evening work by a short doze, which, however, 
he would never admit had exceeded the limits of 
" winking," to use his own term. Mr. Frederick 
Swanwick, who officiated as his secretary, after the 
appointment of Mr. Grooch as Resident Engineer to 
the Bolton and Leigh Railway, has informed us that 
he then remarked- -what in after years he could better 
appreciate- -the clear, terse and vigorous style of Mr. 
Stephenson's dictation ; there was nothing superfluous 
in it ; but it was close, direct, and to the point,- -in 
short, thoroughly business-like. And if, in passing 
through the pen of the amanuensis, his meaning hap- 
pened in any way to be distorted or modified, it did 
not fail to escape his detection, though he was always 
tolerant of any liberties taken with his own form of 
expression, so long as the words written down conveyed 
his real meaning. His strong natural acumen showed 
itself even in such matters as grammar and composition, 
-a department of knowledge in which, it might be 
supposed, he could scarcely have had either time or 
opportunity to acquire much information. But here, as 
in all other things, his shrewd common sense came to 
his help ; and his simple, vigorous English might almost 
be cited as a model of composition. 

His letters and reports written, and his sketches of 



gentleman was 


ner ; ana as 

connoisseur in port wine, his host 
determined to give him a special treat 
of that drink. Stephenson accord- 
ingly w T eut to the small merchant 
with whom he usually dealt, and 
ordered " half a dozen of his very best 
port wine," which was promised of 
first-rate quality. After dinner the 
wine was produced; and when Mr. 
Sandars had sipped a glass, George, 
after waiting a little for the expected 

eulogium, at length asked, " Well, 
Saudars, how d'ye like the port?" 
" Poor stuff! " said the guest, " Poor 
stuff ! " George was very much 
shocked, and with difficulty recovered 
his good-humour. But he lived to be 
able to treat Mr. Sandars to a better 
article at Tapton House, when he used 
to laugh over his first futile attempt 
at Liverpool to gain a reputation for 
his port. 


drawings made ;iiid explained, the remainder of the 

evening was usuallv devoted to conversation with his 
wife ami those of his pupils wlio lived under his roof, 
and constituted, as it were, ]>art of the family. He 
then delighted to test the knowledge of liis voting com- 

O V 

panions. and to question them upon tlie principles of 
mechanics. If they were not quite "up to the mark' 
on any point, there was no escaping detection l>y 
evasive or specious explanations on their part. These 
always met with the verdict of, " Ah! you know noun-lit 
ahout it now; but think it over again, and tell me the 
answer when you understand it." If there were even 
partial success in the reply, it would at once he ac- 

_L .L * 

knowledged, and a full explanation given, to which the 
master would add illustrative examples for the purpose 
of impressing the principle more deeply upon the pupil's 

It was not so much his object and purpose to " cram ' 
the minds of the young men committed to his charge 
with the results of knowledge, as to stimulate them to 
educate themselves- -to induce them to develope their 
mental and moral powers by the exercise of their own 
free energies, and thus acquire that habit of self-thinking 
and self-reliance which is the spring of all true manly 
action. In a word, he sought to bring out and invigo- 
rate the character of his pupils. He felt that he him- 
self had been made stronger and better through his 
encounters with difficulty ; and he would not have the 
road of knowledge made too smooth and easy for them. 
" Learn for yourselves,- -think for yourselves," he would 
say :--" make yourselves masters of principles,- -perse- 
vere,- -be industrious, and there is then no fear of 
you." And not the least emphatic proof of the sound- 
ness of this system of education, as conducted by Mr. 
Stephenson, was afforded by the after history of these 
pupils themselves. There was not one of those trained 
under his eye who did not rise to eminent usefulness and 


distinction as an engineer. He sent them forth into the 
world braced with the spirit of manly self-help- -inspired 
by his own noble example ; and they repeated in their 
after career the lessons of earnest effort and persistent 
industry which his daily life had taught them. 

Mr. Stephenson' s evenings at home were not, how- 
ever, exclusively devoted either to business or to the 
graver exercises above referred to. He would often 
indulge in cheerful conversation and anecdote, falling 
back from time to time upon the struggles and difficul- 
ties of his early life. The not unfrequent winding up 
of his story, addressed to the pupils about him, was- 
" Ah ! ye young fellows don't know what wark is in 
these days ! ' Mr. Swaiiwick delights recalling to mind 
how seldom, if ever, a cross or captious word, or an 
angry look, marred the enjoyment of those evenings. 
The presence of Mrs. Stephenson gave them an addi- 
tional charm : amiable, kind-hearted, and intelligent, she 
shared quietly in the pleasure of the party ; and the 
atmosphere of comfort which always pervaded her home 
contributed in no small degree to render it a centre of 
cheerful, hopeful intercourse, and of earnest, honest 
industry. She was a wife who well deserved, what 
she through life retained, the strong and unremitting 
affection of her husband. 

When Mr. Stephenson retired for the night, it was 
not always that he permitted himself to sink into slum- 
ber. Like Brindley, he worked out many a difficult 
problem in bed ; and for hours he would turn over in 
his mind and study how to overcome some obstacle, or 
to mature some project, on which his thoughts were 
bent. Some remark inadvertently dropped by him at the 
breakfast-table in the morning, served to show that he 
had been stealing some hours from the past night in 
reflection and study. Yet he would rise at his accus- 
tomed early hour, and there was no abatement of his 
usual energy in carrying on the business of the day. 


i'.KKT sTKiMir.xsnvs CAREER. CHAP.XIII. 




]: return to the career of Robert Stephenson, who 
had been absent from England during the construction 
of the Liverpool railway, I nit was shortly about to join 
his father and take part in "the battle of the locomo- 
tive," which was now impending. 

We have seen that on his return from Edinburgh 
College in the summer of 1822, he had assisted in 
superintending the works of the Hetton railway until 
its opening, after which he proceeded to Liverpool to 
take part with Mr. James in surveying the proposed rail- 
way there. In the following year we found him assisting 
his father in the working survey of the Stockton and 
Darlington Railway ; and when the Locomotive Engine 
Works were started in Forth- Street, Newcastle, he took 
an active part in that concern. " The factory," he says. 
" was in active operation early in 1824 ; I left England 
for Colombia in June of that year, having finished 
drawing the designs of the Brusselton stationary engines 
for the Stockton and Darlington Railway before I left." l 

Speculation was very rife at the time ; and amongst 
the most promising adventures were the companies 
organized for the purpose of working the gold and sil- 
ver mines of South America. Great difficulty w r as expe- 
rienced in finding mining engineers capable of carrying 
out those projects, and young men of even the most 
moderate experience were eagerly sought after. The 
Colombian Mining Association of London offered an 

1 Letter to the author. 


engagement to young Stephenson, to go out to Mariquita 
and take charge of the engineering operations of that 
company. Robert was himself desirous of accepting it, 
but his father said it would first be necessary to ascertain 


whether the proposed change would be for his good. 
His health had been very delicate for some time, partly 
occasioned by his rapid growth, but principally because 
of his close application to work and study. Father and 
son proceeded together to call upon Dr. Headlam, the 
eminent physician of Newcastle, to consult him on the 
subject. During the examination which ensued, Robert 
afterwards used to say that lie felt as if he were upon 
trial for life or death. To his great relief, the doctor pro- 
nounced that a temporary residence in a warm climate 
was the very thing likely to be most beneficial to him. 
The appointment was accordingly accepted, and, before 
many weeks had passed, Robert Stephenson set sail for 
South America. 

After a tolerably prosperous voyage he landed at La 
Guavra, on the north coast of Venezuela, on the 23rd 


of July, from thence proceeding to Caraccas, the capital 
of the district, about fifteen miles inland. There he re- 
mained for two months, unable to proceed in consequence 
of the wretched state of the roads in the interior. 
He contrived, however, to make occasional excursions 
in the neighbourhood, with an eye to the mining busi- 
ness on which he had come. About the beginning of 
October he set out for Bogota, the capital of Colombia 
or New Granada. The distance was about twelve hun- 
dred miles, through a very difficult region, and it was 
performed entirely upon mule-back after the fashion of 
the country. 

In the course of the journey Robert visited many of 
the districts reported to be rich in minerals, but he met 
with few traces except of copper, iron, and coal, with 
occasional indications of gold and silver. He found the 
people ready to furnish information, which, however, 



\\lit-n tested, usually proved \v<>rilil< ss. A guide, whom 
In- employed for weeks, kepi liim buoyed up \vhli tin- 

hope >!' richer mmmir <jii:irtTs lliaii hr lia<l \H seen; 

lull wllt'll lie prnlrSM'd to lie !llk' to sllo\\ liiln lililio of 

"brass, steel, alcohol, mid pinchbeck," Stephenson <lis- 

covered him to he an incorrigible m^-nr. mid immediately 

> ' ' i 

dismissed him. At length our traveller reached I><>!_r<>f;i 

o < 

and after an interview witli Mr. [llingworth, tlie com- 
mercial manager of the mining company, he proceeded 

to Honda, crossed the Magdalena, and shortly at'iei- 
iviichedthe site of his intended operations on the eastern 
slope of the Andes. 

Mr. Stephenson used afterwards to speak in glowing 
terms of this his first mule -journey in South America. 
Everything ^vas entirely new to him. The varietv and 

V i 

beauty of the indigenous plants, the luxurious tropical 
vegetation, the appearance, manners, and dress of the 
people, and the mode of travelling, were altogether dif- 
ferent from everything he had before seen. His own 


travelling garb also must have been strange even to 
himself. " My hat," he says, " was of plaited grass, 
with a crown nine inches in height, surrounded by a 
brim of six inches ; a white cotton suit ; and a ruana of 
blue and crimson plaid, with a hole in the centre for the 
head to pass through. This cloak is admirably adapted 
for the purpose, amply covering the rider and mule, 
and at night answering the purpose of a blanket in the 
net-hammock, which is made from the fibres of the aloe, 
and which every traveller carries before him on his 
mule, and suspends to the trees or in houses, as occasion 
may require." The part of the journey which seems 
to have made the most lasting impression on his mind 


Mr. Stephenson afterwards pub- 
lished an account of his journey from 
Caraccas to Sta. Bogota da Fe, in the 
' National Magazine and Monthly 
Critic' (Mitchell, Bed Lion Court, 

The articles indicate close and accu- 
rate observation of the scenery, cli- 
mate, inhabitants, and productions 
of the country passed through, but 
do not possess sufficient interest to 

1837), under the title of " Scraps justify their republication. 
from My Xote-Book in Colombia." 


was that between Bogota and the mining district in 
the neighbourhood of Mariquita. As he ascended the 
slopes of the mountain-range, and reached the first step 
of the table-land, he was struck beyond expression with 
the noble view of the valley of the Magdalena behind 
him, so vast that he failed in attempting to define the 
point at which the course of the river blended with the 
horizon. Like all travellers in the district, he noted 
the remarkable changes of climate and vegetation, as he 
rose from the burning plains towards the fresh breath 
of the mountains. From an atmosphere as hot as that 
of an oven he passed into delicious cool air ; until, in 
his onward and upward journey, a still more temperate 
region was reached, the very perfection of climate. 
Before him rose the majestic Cordilleras, forming a 
rampart against the western skies, and at certain times 
of the day looking positively black, sharp, and even at 
their summit, like a wall. 

Our engineer took up his abode for a time at Mari- 
quita, a fine old city, though then greatly fallen into de- 
cay. During the period of the Spanish dominion, it was 
an important place, most of the gold and silver convoys 
passing through it on their way to Cartagena, there to 
be shipped in galleons for Europe. The mountainous 
country to the west was rich in silver, gold, and other 
metals, and it was Mr. Stephenson's object to select the 
best site for commencing operations for the Company. 
With this object he " prospected ' about in all direc- 
tions, visiting long-abandoned mines, and analyzing 
specimens obtained from many quarters. The mines 
eventually fixed upon as the scene of his operations were 
those of La Maiita and Santa Anna, long before worked 
by the Spaniards, though, in consequence of the luxu- 
riance and rapidity of the vegetation, all traces of the 

_L t/ < ? 

old workings had become completely overgrown and 
lost. Everything had to be begun anew. Eoads had 
to be cut to open a way to the mines, machinery had to 



IM- erected, and the ground opened up. when some <>t 

the Mid adits were eventually hit upon. The native 

peons or labourers \\civ not accustomed to w..rk, and at 

lirst iliev usually contrived to desert when they were 
not watched, so that very little progress eould be made 

until the arrival of the expected band of miners from 
Knirland. The authorities were bv no means helpful, 


and the engineer was driven to an old expedient with 
the object of overcoming this difficulty. " We endea- 
vour all we ran,' he says, in one of his letters, "to 


make ourselves popular, and this we 1ind most effectually 
accomplished by 'regaling the venal beasts.' He 
als< irnve a hall at Mariquita, which passed off with 
eclat, the governor from Honda, with a host of friends, 
honouring it with their presence. 1 It was, indeed, 
necessary to "make a party' in this way, as other 
schemers were already trying to undermine the Colom- 
bian Company in influential directions. The engineer 
did not exaggerate when he said, " The uncertainty of 
transacting business in this country is perplexing be- 
yond description." In the meantime labourers had been 
attracted to Santa Anna, which became, the engineer 
wrote, " like an English fair 011 Sundays : people flock 
to it from all quarters, to buy beef and chat with their 
friends. Sometimes three or four torros are slaughtered 
in a day. The people now eat more beef in a week 
than they did in two months before, and they are 
consequently getting fat." 

1 During liis short residence on the 
Colombian table-land, Mr. Stephen- 
son made the acquaintance of several 
native families of distinction. Nor 
did his connexion with them alto- 
gether cease upon his return to Kim- 
land ; for when he went over the 
scenes of his youth at Killing-worth 
with the author, in 1854, he was ac- 
companied by a young gentleman, 
then learning engineering in the New- 
castle factory, the son of one of the 

gentlemen whose friendship he had 
formed during his American residence. 
2 Letter to Mr. lllingworth, Septem- 
ber 25th, 1825. The reports made to 
the directors and officers of the com- 
pany, which we have seen, contain 
the details of the operations carried 
on at the mines ; but they are as dry 
and uninteresting as such reports 
, usually are, and furnish no materials 
calculated to illustrate the subject of 
the text. 


At last, his party of miners arrived from England, 
but they gave him even more trouble than the peons 
had done. They were rough, drunken, and sometimes 
altogether ungovernable. He set them to work at 
the Santa Anna mine without delav, and at the same 

t/ / 

time took up his abode amongst them, " to keep them," 
he said, " if possible, from indulging in the detestable 
vice of drunkenness, which, if not put a stop to, will 
eventually destroy themselves, and involve the mining 
association in ruin." To add to his troubles, the captain 
of the miners displayed a very hostile and insubordinate 
spirit, quarrelled and fought with the men, and was 
insolent to the engineer himself. The captain and his 
gang, being Cornish men, told Robert to his face that 
because he was a North-country man, and not born in 
Cornwall, it was impossible he should know anything of 
mining. Disease also fell upon him,- -first fever, and 
then visceral derangement, followed by a return of 
his " old complaint, a feeling of oppression in the 
breast." No wonder that in the midst of these troubles 
he should longingly speak of returning to his native 
land. But he stuck to his post and his duty, kept up 
his courage, and by a mixture of mildness and firmness, 
and the display of great coolness of judgment, he con- 
trived to keep the men to their work, and gradually to 
carry forward the enterprise which he had undertaken. 
By the beginning of July, 1826, we find that quietness 
and order had been restored, and the works were pro- 
ceeding more satisfactorily, though the yield of silver 
was not as yet very promising. Mr. Stepheiison cal- 
culated that at least three years' diligent and costly 
operations would be needed to render the mines 

In the mean time he removed to the dwelling which 
had been erected for his accommodation at Santa Anna. 
It was a structure speedily raised after the fashion of 




the country. Tlio Avails were of split and flattened 


bamboo, tied together with the long fibres of a dried 
climbing plant ; the roof was of palm-leaves, and the 
ceiling of reeds. When an earthquake shook the 
district- -for earthquakes were frequent- -the inmates of 
such a fabric merely felt as if shaken in a basket, with- 
out sustaining any harm. In front of the cottage lay 
a woody ravine, extending almost to the base of the 
Andes, gorgeously clothed in primeval vegetation- 



magnolias, palms, bamboos, tree-ferns, acacias, cedars ; 
and, towering over all, the great almendrons, with their 
smooth, silvery stems, bearing aloft noble clusters of 
pure white blossom. The forest was haunted by my- 
riads of gay insects, butterflies with wings of dazzling 
lustre, birds of brilliant plumage, humming-birds, 
golden orioles, toucans, and a host of solitary warblers. 
But the glorious sunsets seen from his cottage-porch 
more than all astonished and delighted the young en- 




gineer ; and he was accustomed to say that, after having 
witnessed them, he was reluctant to accuse the ancient 
Peruvians of idolatry. 

But all these natural beauties failed to reconcile him 
to the harassing difficulties of his situation, which 
continued to increase rather than diminish. He was 
hampered by the action of the Board at home, who 
gave ear to hostile criticisms on his reports ; and although 
they afterwards made handsome acknowledgment of his 
services, he felt his position to be altogether unsatis- 
factory. He therefore determined to leave at the expiry 
of his three years' engagement, and communicated his 
decision to the directors accordingly. 1 On receiving his 

1 In a letter to Mr. II ling-worth, 
then resident at Bogota, dated the 
24th March, 1820, Roberl wrote as 
follows: "Nothing but the fullest 
consent of my partners in Knuland 
conld induce UK- t<> stay in this 
country, and the assurance that no 
absolute necessity existed to call me 
home. I must also have the consent 
of my father. 1 know that he must 
have suffered severely from my ab- 
sence, but that having been extended 
so far beyond the period he was led to 
expect, may have induced him to 
curtail his plans; which, had they 
been accomplished, as they would 
have been by my assistance, would 
have placed us both in a situation far 
superior to anything that I can hope 
for as the servant of an Association 
however wealthy and liberal. What 
I might do in England is, perhaps, 
known to myself only ; it is difficult, 
therefore, for the Association to calcu- 
late upon rewarding me to the full 
extent of my prospects at home. My 
prosperity is involved in that of my 
father, whose property was sacrificed 
in laying the foundations of an esta- 
blishment for me ; his capital being 
invested in a concern which requires 

the greatest attention, and which, 
with our personal superintendence, 
could not fail to secure that inde- 
pendence which forms so principally 
the object of all our toil. Ignorant as 
I am of the present state of affairs in 
England, it would be inconsiderate on 
my part to enter upon any further 
engagement ; but I have the prospe- 
rity of my present task so much at 
heart, that my duty only would in- 
duce me to abandon it. My residence 
in this country, and the work I have 
had to perform, would have been irk- 
some in the extreme, had I not been 
fortunate in meeting you, whose ac- 
quaintance and generous kindness to 
me has comparatively lightened rny 
task, and of which believe me to be 
gratefully sensible. My experience in 
Colombia has, of course, led me to a 
knowledge of all that can be alleged 

o o 

against my prolonging my stay, even 
supposing that my duties should not 
call me to England. I should be shut 
up in Sta. Anna, where no desirable 
society exists, excepting that of my 
friend Empson. a 1 should be com- 
pletely debarred from following out 
my studies ; in short, the faculties of 
my mind must become dormant, ex- 

a Charles Empson accompanied Robert 
Stephenson to Colombia, as his secretary 
and book-keeper. He afterwards published 
a book, entitled, ' Narratives of South Ame- 

rica, illustrating Manners, Customs, and 
Scenery.' London: 1836. He died at 
Bath, in the autumn of 1861. 


letter, tin- r><>;inl, through Mr. Richardson, <>f Lombard- 
street, one of the directors, communicated with his father 

;it Nrwr;istlr. i'< -j ii'i >( -i 1 1 i 1 1 g thai if lie would allow Ins 
-"ii t<> remain in ( 1 <)l<>inl>i;i ihr ( 'i iin| laiiv wmild make it 
"worth his while." T<> tin's tin- father gave ;i deeided 
negative, ;nid intimated that lie InniM-H' urgently needed 

liis son's assistance, ;md that he must return at the 
expiry of liis three years' term, --a decision, writes 
Robert, "at wliich I feel much gratified, as it is <-]e;ir 
that he is as anxious to have me hack in England as I 
am to get there." At the same time, Edward Pease, 
a principal partner in the Newcastle firm, privately 
wrote Robert to the following effect, urging his return 
home :--" I can assure thee that your business at New- 
castle, as well as thy father's engineering, have suffered 
very much from thy absence, and, unless thou soon 
return, the former will be given up, as Mr. Longridge is 
not able to give it that attention it requires ; and what 
is done is not done with credit to the house." The idea 
of the manufactory being given up, which Robert had 
laboured so hard to establish before leaving England, 
was painful to him in the extreme, and he wrote Mr. 
Illingworth, strongly urging that arrangements should 
be made for enabling him to leave without delay. In 
the mean time he was again laid prostrate by another 
violent attack of aguish fever ; and when able to write. 

cvpting what were called into exercise 
in the monotonous routine of mining, 
in which variety is scarcely known. 
I mean not to imply that the art of 
mining is devoid of interest ; on the 
contrary, its pursuit always afforded 
me pleasure, but I should wish to 
blend other studies with it, and I 
know it could be done with advan- 
tage, and without detracting from the 
attention due to operative mining. To 

journals, as well as standard works 
on chemistry and mineralogy. Thesr, 
the superintendence of the mines, and 
the engineering department, would 
form ample resources lor the mind, 
and render a four years' residence 
bearable, otherwise it would be in- 
tolerable. With these privileges, an 
adequate remuneration, and the con- 
sent of my friends, perhaps I might 
remain ; but my feelings and ideas 

be open, should I remain here I would will be entirely guided by future corn- 
erect a complete laboratory for per- munications from England." 

forming all the necessary kinds of 
metallurgical operations. I would 
have a liberal supply of scientific 

1 Letter to Mr. Illingworth, April 
9th, 1827. 


iii June, 1827, he expressed himself as "completely 
wearied and worn down with vexation." 

At length, when he was sufficiently recovered from 
his attack and able to travel, he set out on his voyage 
homeward in the beginning of August. At Mompox, 
on his way down the river Magdalena, he met Mr. 
Bodmer, his successor, with a fresh party of miners 
from England, on their way up the country to the 
quarters which he had just quitted. Next day, six hours 
after leaving Mompox, a steamboat was met ascending 
the river, with Bolivar the Liberator on board, on his 
way to St. Bogota ; and it was a mortification to our 
engineer that he had only a passing sight of that dis- 
tinguished person. It was his intention, on leaving 
Mariquita. to visit the Isthmus of Panama on his way 
home, for the purpose of inquiring into the practicability 
of cutting a canal to unite the Atlantic and Pacific a 
project which then formed the subject of considerable 
public discussion ; but Mr. Bodmer having informed 
him, at Mompox, that such a visit would be inconsistent 
with the statements made to the London Board that his 
presence was so anxiously desired at home, he deter- 
mined to embrace the first opportunity of proceeding to 
New York. 

Arrived at the port of Cartagena, he found himself 
under the necessity of waiting some time for a ship. 
The delay was very irksome to him, the more so as the 
city was then desolated by the ravages of the yellow 
fever. While sitting one day in the large, bare, com- 
fortless public room of the miserable hotel at which he 
put up, he observed two strangers, whom he at once per- 
ceived to be English. One of the strangers was a 
tall, gaunt man, shrunken and hollow-looking, shabbily 
dressed, and apparently poverty-stricken. On making 
inquiry, he found it was Trevithick, the builder of the 
first railroad locomotive ! He was returning home from 
the gold mines of Peru penniless. He had left England 


in 1816, with powerful steam-engines, intended for the 
drainage ami working of the Peruvian mines. lie met 
with almost a royal reception on his landing at Lima. 
A n-uanl of honour was appointed to attend him, and it 
was even proposed to erect a statue of Don Ricardo 
Trevithick in solid silver. It was given forth in Corn- 
wall that liis emoluments amounted to 100,0007. a year, 1 
and that lie was making a gigantic fortune. Great, 
therefore, was Robert Stephenson's surprise to find this 
potent Don Ricardo in the inn at Cartagena, reduce.! 
almost to his last shilling, and unable to proceed further. 
He had indeed realized the truth of the Spanish proverb, 
that " a silver mine brings misery, a gold mine ruin." 
He and his friend had lost everything in their journey 
across the country from Peru. They had forded rivers 
and wandered through forests, leaving all their baggage 
behind them, and had reached thus far only with the 


clothes upon their backs. Almost the only remnant of 
precious metal saved by Trevithick was a pair of silver 
spurs, which he took back with him to Cornwall. Robert 
Stephenson lent him 50/. to enable him to reach Eng- 
land ; and though he was afterwards heard of as an 
inventor there, he had no further part in the ultimate 
triumph of the locomotive. 

But Trevi thick's misadventures on this occasion had 
not yet ended, for before he reached New York he was 
wrecked, and Robert Stephenson with him. The fol- 
lowing is the account of the voyage, " big with adven- 
tures," as given by the latter in a letter to his friend 
Illingworth :--" At first we had very little foul weather, 
and indeed were for several days becalmed amongst the 
islands, which was so far fortunate, for a few degrees 
farther north the most tremendous gales were blowing, 
and they appear (from our future information) to have 
wrecked every vessel exposed to their violence. We 

' Geological Transactions of Cornwall,' i., 222. 


had two examples of the effects of the hurricane ; for, 
as we sailed north we took on board the remains of two 
crews found floating about on dismantled hulls. The 
one had been nine days without food of any kind, except 
the carcasses of two of their companions wdio had died a 
day or two previously from fatigue and hunger. The 

other crew had been driven about for six da vs. and were 


not so dejected, but reduced to such a weak state that 
they were obliged to be drawn on board our vessel by 
ropes. A brig bound for Havannah took part of the 
men, and we took the remainder. To attempt any 
description of my feelings on witnessing such scenes 
would be in vain. You will not be surprised to learn 
that I felt somewhat uneasy at the thought that we 
were so far from England, and that I also might possibly 
suffer similar shipwreck ; but I consoled myself with 
the hope that fate would be more kind to us. It was 
not so much so, however, as I had flattered myself; for 
on voyaging towards New York, after we had made 
the land, we ran aground about midnight. The vessel 
soon filled with water, and, being surrounded by the 
breaking surf, the ship was soon split up, and before 
morning our situation became perilous. Masts and all 
were cut away to prevent the hull rocking ; but all we 
could do was of no avail. About 8 o'clock on the fol- 
lowing morning, after a most miserable night, we were 
taken off the wreck, and were so fortunate as to reach 
the shore. I saved my minerals, but Empson lost part 
of his botanical collection. Upon the whole, we got off 
well ; and, had I not been on the American side of the 
Atlantic, I ' guess ' I would not have gone to sea 

After a short tour in the United States and Canada, 
Eobert Stephensoii and his friend took ship for Liver- 
pool, where they arrived at the end of November, and 
at once proceeded to Newcastle. The factory, we have 
seen, was by no means in a prosperous state. During 


the time Robert had been in Ajnerica it had been carried 
oil at a considerable Inss : and Kdward Prase, very 
miK-li disheartened, wished to retire from it, but George 

Stepliensoli being unable to raise tlie lV(|llisitr money 

to l)ii v him out, tlie establishment was of necessity carried 
on hv its then partners until the locomotive could he 
estahlished in public estimation as a practicable and 
economical working power. Robert Stephenson imme- 
diately instituted a rigid inquiry into the working of 
the concern, unravelled the accounts, which had hern 
allowed to fall into confusion during his father's absence 
at Liverpool, and very shortly succeeded in placing the 

affairs of the factory in a more healthy condition. In 


all this he had the hearty support of his father, as well 
as of the other partners. 

The works of the Liverpool and Manchester Kailway 
were now approaching completion. But, singular to 

say, the directors had not vet decided as to the tractive 

i / 

power to be employed in working the line when opened 
for traffic. The differences of opinion among them were 
so great as apparently to be irreconcilable. It was 
necessary, however, that they should come to some 
decision without further loss of time ; and many board 
meetings were accordingly held to discuss the subject. 
The old-fashioned and well-tried system of horse haulage 
was not without its advocates ; but, looking at the large 
amount of traffic which there was to be conveyed, and 
at the probable delay in the transit from station to 
station if this method were adopted, the directors, after 
a visit made by them to the Northumberland and 


Durham railways in 1828, came to the conclusion that 
the employment of horse power was inadmissible. 

Fixed engines had many advocates ; the locomotive 
very few : it stood as yet almost in a minority of one- 

!/ / V 

George Stephenson. The prejudice against the employ- 
ment of the latter power had even increased since the 
Liverpool and Manchester Bill underwent its first ordeal 


in the House of Commons. In proof of this, we may 
mention that the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Act 
was conceded in 1829, on the express condition that it 

should not be worked by locomotives, but bv horses 



Grave doubts existed as to the practicability of work- 
ing a large traffic by means of travelling engines. The 
most celebrated engineers offered no opinion on the 
subject. They did not believe in the locomotive, and 
would scarcely take the trouble to examine it. The 
ridicule with which George Stephenson had been assailed 
by the barristers before the Parliamentary Committee 
had not been altogether distasteful to them. Perhaps 
they did not relish the idea of a man who had picked 
up his experience in Newcastle coal-pits appearing in 
the capacity of a leading engineer before Parliament, 
and attempting to establish a new system of internal 

communication in the country. Mr. Telford, the Go- 


vernment engineer, was consulted by his employers on 
the occasion of the Company applying to the Exchequer 
Loan Commissioners to forego their security of 00 per 
cent, of the calls, which the Directors wished to raise to 
enable them to proceed more expeditiously with the 
works. But his Report was considered so unsatisfactory 
that the Commissioners would not release any part of 
the calls. All that Mr. Telford would say on the subject 
of the power to be employed was, that the use of horses 
had been done aw r ay with by introducing two sets of 
inclined planes, and he considered this an evil, inasmuch 
as the planes must be worked either by locomotive or 
fixed engines ; " but," he said, " which of the two latter 
modes shall be adopted, I understand has not yet been 
finally determined ; and both being recent projects, in. 
which I have had no experience, I cannot take upon me 
to say whether either will fully answer in practice." 
The directors could not disregard the adverse and con- 
flicting views of the professional men whom they 


consulted. But Mr. Stephenson had so repeatedly and 
earnestly urged upon them the propriety of making a 
trial of the locomotive hrfoiv coming to any decision 
against it, that they at length authorised liini 1o proceed 
with the construction of one of his engines by way of 
experiment. In their report to the proprietors at their 
annual meeting on the 27th March, 1828, they state 
that they had, after due consideration, authorised the 
engineer " to prepare a locomotive engine, which, from 
the nature of its construction and from the experiments 
already made, he is of opinion will be effective for the 
purposes of the company, without proving an annoyance 
to the public." The locomotive thus ordered was placed 
upon the line in 1829, and was found of great service 
in drawing the waggons full of marl from the two great 

In the mean time the discussion proceeded as to the 
kind of power to be permanently employed for the 
working of the railway. The directors were inundated 
with schemes of all sorts for facilitating locomotion. 
The projectors of England, France, and America, seemed 
to be let loose upon them. There were plans for work- 
ing the waggons along the line by water power. Some 
proposed hydrogen, and others carbonic acid gas. Atmos- 
pheric pressure had its eager advocates. And various 
kinds of fixed and locomotive steam power were sug- 
gested. Thomas Gray urged his plan of a greased road 
with cog rails ; and Messrs. Yignolles and Ericsson 
recommended the adoption of a central friction rail, 
against which two horizontal rollers under the locomo- 
tive, pressing upon the sides of this rail, were to afford 
the means of ascending the inclined planes. The 
directors felt themselves quite unable to choose from 
amidst this multitude of projects. Their engineer ex- 
pressed himself as decidedly as heretofore in favour of 
smooth rails and locomotive engines, which, he was 
confident, would be found the most economical and by 


tin- the most convenient moving power that could be 
employed. The Stockton and Darlington Railway being 
now at work, another deputation went down personally 
to inspect the fixed and locomotive engines on that line, 
as well as at Hetton and Killingworth. They returned 
to Liverpool with much information ; but their testimony 
as to the relative merits of the two kinds of engines was 
so contradictory, that the directors were as far from a 
decision as ever. 

They then resolved to call to their aid two professional 
engineers of high standing, who should visit the Dar- 
lington and Newcastle railways, carefully examine both 
modes of working- -the fixed and the locomotive, --and 
report to them fully on the subject. The gentlemen 
selected were Mr. AValker of Limehouse, and Mr. Rast- 
rick of Stourbridge. After carefully examining the 
modes of working the northern railways, they made their 
report to the directors in the spring of 1820. They 
concurred in the opinion that the cost of an establishment 
of fixed engines would be somewhat greater than that 
of locomotives to do the same work ; but thought the 
annual charge would be less if the former were adopted. 
They calculated that the cost of moving a ton of goods 
thirty miles by fixed engines would be 6*4(k/., and by 
locomotives, 8*36c/., assuming a profitable traffic to be 
obtained both ways. At the same time it was admitted 
that there appeared more ground for expecting improve- 
ments in the construction and working of locomotives 
than of stationary engines. " On the whole, however, 
and looking especially at the computed annual charge 
of working the road on the two systems on a large scale, 
Messrs. Walker and Rastrick were of opinion that fixed 
engines were preferable, and accordingly recommended 
their adoption to the directors." And in order to 

1 Mr. Booth's Account, pp. 70-1. 
While concurring with Mr. Rastrick 
in recommending " the stationary reci- 

procating system as the best," if it was 
the directors' intention to make the 
line complete at once, so as to accom- 



r;irry the system recommended by them into effect, thev 
|>r<>]H>M>d to divide the railroad between Liverpool and 
Manchester into nineteen stupes of about a mile ;ind a 
lialf each, with twenty-one engines iixed at tlie different 
points to work the trains forward. 

Siieh was flic result, so far, of George Stepheiison's 
lahonrs. Two of tlie best | >ract ical engineers of the day 
concurred in reporting substantially in favour of the 
employment of fixed engines. Not a single professional 
man of eminence could be found to coincide with tlie 
engineer of tlie railway in bis preference for locomotive 
over iixed engine power. He bad scarcely a supporter, 
and tlie locomotive svstem seemed on the eve of bein!_r 


abandoned. Still lie did not despair. With the pro- 
fession against him, and public opinion against bim- 
for the most frightful stories were abroad respecting the 
dangers, the unsightliness, and the nuisance which the 
locomotive would create- -Stephenson held to his pur- 
pose. Even in this, apparently the darkest hour of the 
locomotive, he did not hesitate to declare that locomotive 
railroads would, before many years bad passed, be "the 
great highways of the world." 

He urged his views upon the directors in all ways, 
and, as some of them thought, at all seasons. He pointed 
out the greater convenience of locomotive power for the 
purposes of a public highway, likening it to a series of 
short unconnected chains, any one of which could be 

niodate the traffic expected by them, 
or a quantity approaching to it (i. e., 
oToO tons of goods and passengers 
from Liverpool towards Manchester, 
and 3950 tons from Manchester to- 
wards Liverpool), Mr. Walker added, 
" but if any circumstances should 
induce the directors to proceed by de- 
grees, and to proportion the power of 
convevance to the demand, then we 


recommend locomotive-engines upon 
the line generally ; and two fixed en- 
gines upon Eainhill and Sutton planes, 
to draw up the locomotive-engines as 
well as the goods and carriages." And 

" if on any occasion the trade should 
get beyond the supply of locomotives, 
the horse might form a temporary sub- 
stitute." As, however, it was the 
directors' determination, with a view 
to the success of their experiment, to 
open the line complete lor working, 
they felt that it would be unadvisable 
to adopt this partial experiment ; and 
it was still left for them to decide 
whether they would adopt or not the 
substantial recommendation of the re- 
porting engineers in favour of the sta- 
tionary engine system for the complete 
accommodation of the expected traffic. 




removed and another substituted without interruption to 
the traffic ; whereas the fixed engine system might be 
regarded in the light of a continuous chain extending 
between the two termini, the failure of any link of which 
would derange the whole. 1 But the fixed engine party 
were very strong at the board, and, led by Mr. Cropper, 
they urged the propriety of forthwith adopting the 
report of Messrs. Walker and Rastrick. Mr. Sandars 
and Mr. William Rathbone, on the other hand, desired 
that a fair trial should be given to the locomotive ; and 
they with reason objected to the expenditure of the 
large capital necessary to construct the proposed engine- 
houses, with their fixed engines, ropes, and machinery, 
until they had tested the powers of the locomotive as 
recommended by their own engineer. Mr. Stephensoii 
continued to urge upon them that the locomotive was 
yet capable of great improvements, if proper induce- 
ments were held out to inventors and machinists to 
make them ; and he pledged himself that, if time were 
given him, he would construct an engine that should 
satisfy their requirements, and prove itself capable of 
working heavy loads along the raihvay with speed, 
regularity, and safety. At length, influenced by his 
persistent earnestness not less than by his arguments, the 
directors, at the suggestion of Mr. Harrison, determined 
to offer a prize of 500/. for the best locomotive engine, 
which, on a certain day, should be produced on the rail- 
way, and perform certain specified conditions in the 
most satisfactory manner. 2 

1 The arguments used by Mr. Ste- 
phenson with the directors, in favour 
of the locomotive engine, were after- 
wards collected and published in 1830 
by Robert Stephenson and Joseph 
Locke, as " compiled from the Reports 
of Mr. George Stephenson." The 
pamphlet was entitled, ' Observations 
on the Comparative Merits of Locomo- 
tive and Fixed Engines.' Robert Ste- 
pheuson, speaking of the authorship 
many years after, said, ' I believe I 

furnished the facts and the arguments, 
and Locke put them into shape. 
Locke was a very flowery writer, 
whereas my style was rather bald and 
unattractive ; so he was the editor of 
the pamphlet, which excited a good 
deal of attention amongst engineers at 
the time." 

2 The conditions were these : 

1 . The engine must effectually con- 
sume its own smoke. 

2. The engine, if of six tons weight, 

s 2 



< 1IA1'. XIII. 

The rc< jiiircinciiis of the directors .MS t<> speed were 
Dot excessive. All tint theyasked forwas.thal ten miles 


;in hour should ]<' maintained. Perhaps tln-v li;i<l in 
mind ilu- animadversions of the * Quarterlv Reviewer' 

* ? 

on tin- absurdity of travelling al ;i greater velocity, ns 
well ;is the remarks puhlished by Mr. Nicholas Wood, 

wliom tlic-v srk'ctcd to In- one of the iuduvs of the coin- 
j < 

petition, in conjunction with Mi-. Rastrick of Stourbridge 

;ind Mr. Kennedy of Manchester. 

It was now felt that the fate of railways in a great 
measure depended upon the issue of this appeal to the 
mechanical genius of England. AVJieii the advertise- 

O o 

ment of the prize for the best locomotive was published, 
scientific men began more particularly to direct their 
attention to the new power which was thus struggling 
into existence. In the mean time public opinion on the 
subject of railway working remained suspended, and the 
progress of the undertaking was watched with the most 
intense interest. 

must be able to draw after it, day by 
day, twenty tons weight (including 
the tender and water-tank) at ten 
miles an hour, with a pressure of 
steam on the boiler not exceeding fifty 
pounds to the square inch. 

3. The boiler must have two safety 
valves, neither of which must be fast- 
ened down, and one of them be com- 
pletely out of the control of the engine- 

4. The engine and boiler must be 
supported on springs, and rest on six 
wheels, the height of the whole not 
exceeding fifteen feet to the top of the 

5. The engine, with water, must 
not weigh more than six tons ; but an 
engine of less weight would be pre- 
ferred on its drawing a proportionate 
load behind it ; if of only lour and a 
half tons, then it might be put on 
only four wheels, The Company to 
be at liberty to test the boiler, &c., by 
a pressure of one hundred and fifty 
pounds to the square inch. 

6. A mercurial gauge must be af- 
fixed to the machine, showing the 
steam pressure above forty-five pounds 
per square inch. 

7. The engine must be delivered, 
complete and ready for trial, at tin- 
Liverpool end of the railway, not later 
than the 1st of October, 1829. 

8. The price of the engine must not 
exceed 550?. 

Many persons of influence declared 
the conditions published by the di- 
rectors of the railway chimerical in the 
extreme. One gentleman of some 
eminence in Liverpool, Mr. P. Kwart, 
who afterwards filled the office of 
Government Inspector of Post Office 
Steam-packets, declared that only a 
parcel of charlatans would ever have 
issued such a set of conditions; that it 
had been proved to be impossible to 
make a locomotive engine go at ten 
miles an hour; but if it ever was 
done, he would eat a stewed engine- 
wheel to his breakfast. 


During the progress of the above important discussion 
with reference to the kind of power to be employed in 
working the railway, Mr. Stephenson was in constant 
communication with his son Kobert, who made frequent 
visits to Liverpool for the purpose of assisting his father 
in the preparation of his reports to the board on the 
subject. Mr. Swanwick remembers the vivid interest 
of the evening conversations which took place between 
father and son as to the best mode of increasing the 
powers and perfecting the mechanism of the locomotive. 
He wondered at their quick perception and rapid judg- 
ment on each other's suggestions, at the mechanical 
difficulties which they anticipated and provided for 
in the practical arrangement of the machine ; and he 
speaks of these evenings as most interesting displays 
of two actively ingenious and able minds, stimulating 
each other to feats of mechanical invention, bv which it 


was ordained that the locomotive engine should become 
what it now is. These discussions became more fre- 
quent, and still more interesting, after the public prize 
had been offered for the best locomotive by the directors 
of the railway, and the working plans of the engine 
which they proposed to construct had to be settled. 

One of the most important considerations in the new 
engine was the arrangement of the boiler and the ex- 
tension of its heating surface to enable steam enough to 
be raised rapidly and continuously, for the purpose of 
maintaining high rates of speed,- -the effect of high- 
pressure engines being ascertained to depend mainly 
upon the quantity of steam which the boiler can gene- 
rate, and upon its degree of elasticity when produced. 
The quantity of steam so generated, it will be obvious, 
must chiefly depend upon the quantity of fuel consumed 
in the furnace, and, by necessary consequence, upon the 
high rate of temperature maintained there. 

It will be remembered that in Stephenson's first 
Killing-worth engines he invented and applied the inge- 


nious method of stimulating combustion in the furnace, 

lv thro\viii!>* tlie waste str:mi into the chimney after 

. D t/ 

performing its oil ire in tin- cylinders, thus accelerating 
the ascent of the ciinvni of air, greatly increasing the 
draught, and consequently the temperature of the fire. 
This plan was adopted by him, as we have already seen, 
as early as 1815 ; and it was so successful that he 
himself attributed to it the greater economy of the 
locomotive as compared with horse power. Hence the 
continuance of its use upon the Killingworth Railway. 

Though the adoption of the steam-blast greatly 
quickened combustion and contributed to the rapid 
production of high-pressure steam, the limited amount 
of heating surface presented to the fire was still felt to 
be an obstacle to the complete success of the locomotive 
engine. Mr. Stephenson endeavoured to overcome this 
by lengthening the boilers and increasing the surface 
presented by the flue tubes. The " Lancashire Witch," 
which he built for the Bolton and Leigh Railway, and 
used in forming the Liverpool and Manchester Railway 
embankments, was constructed with a double tube, each 
of which contained a fire and passed longitudinally 
through the boiler. But this arrangement necessarily 
led to a considerable increase in the weight of the 
engine, which amounted to about twelve tons each ; 
and as six tons was the limit allowed for engines 
admitted to the Liverpool competition, it was clear 
that the time was come when the Killingworth loco- 
motive must undergo a further important modification. 

For many years previous to this period, ingenious 
mechanics had been engaged in attempting to solve the 
problem of the best and most economical boiler for 
the production of high-pressure steam. As early as 
1803, Mr. Woolf patented a tubular boiler, which was 
extensively employed at the Cornish mines, and was 
found greatly to facilitate the production of steam, by 
the extension of the heating surface. The ingenious 


Trevithick, in his patent of 1815, seems also to have 
entertained the idea of employing a Loiler constructed 
of "small perpendicular tubes," with the same object of 
increasing the heating surface. These tubes were to 
1 >e closed at the bottom, and open into a common reser- 
voir, from which thev were to receive their water, and 


where the steam of all the tubes was to be united. It 
does not, however, appear that any locomotive was ever 
constructed according to this patent. Mr. Goldsworthy 
Grurney, the persevering adaptor of steam-carriages to 
travelling on common roads, applied the tubular prin- 
ciple in the boiler of his engine, in which the steam 
was generated within the tubes ; whilst the boiler in- 
vented by Messrs. Summers and Oc;le for their turn- 

/ o 

pike-road steam-carriage, consisted of a series of tubes 
placed vertically over the furnace, through which the 
heated air passed before reaching the chimney! 

About the same time George Stephenson was trying 
the effect of introducing small tubes in the boilers of 
his locomotives, with the object of increasing their eva- 
porative power. Thus, in 1829, lie sent to France two 
eno-ines constructed at the Newcastle works for the 


Lvons and St. Etienne Railway, in the boilers of which 
tubes were placed containing water. The heating sur- 
face was thus found to be materially increased ; but the 
expedient was not successful, for the tubes, becoming 
furred with deposit, shortly burned out and were re- 
moved. It was then that M. Seguin, the engineer of 
the railway, pursuing the same idea, is said to have 
adopted his plan of employing horizontal tubes through 
which the heated air passed in streamlets. Mr. Henry 
Booth, the secretary of the Liverpool and Manchester 
Railway, without any knowledge of M. Seguin' s pro- 
ceedings, next devised his plan of a tubular boiler, which 
he brought under the notice of Mr. Stephenson, who at 
once adopted it, and settled the mode in which the fire- 
box and tubes were to be mutually arranged and con- 


ncrted. This |)l;in \v;is adopted in the construction of the 
celebrated "Rocket' engine, flic building of which \v;is 
immediately proceeded \\ith ni the Newcastle works. 

Tlic principal circumstances connected with the con- 
struction of the " Rocket,' as (Icscrihcil hv Robert Ste- 

phenson to tlic author, may he thus hrielly slated. The 
tubular principle was adopted in a more complete man- 
ner than had yet heen attempted. Twenty-five copper 
tubes, each three inches in diameter, extended from one 
end of the boiler to the other, the heated air passing 
through them on its way to the chimney; and the tubes 
being surrounded by the water of the boiler, it will be 
obvious that a large extension of the heating surface was 
thus effectually secured. The principal difficulty was 
in fitting the copper tubes within the boiler so as to pre- 
vent leakage. They were manufactured by a Newcastle 
coppersmith, and soldered to brass screws which were 
screwed into the boiler ends, standing out in great 
knobs. When the tubes were thus fitted, and the 
boiler was filled with water, hydraulic pressure was 
applied ; but the water squirted out at every joint, and 
the factory floor was soon flooded. Robert went home 
in despair ; and in the first moment of grief, he wrote to 
his father that the whole thing was a failure. By 
return of post came a letter from his father, telling 
him that despair was not to be thought of- -that he 
must " try again ; ' and he suggested a mode of over- 
coming* the difficulty, which his son had already antici- 

<j / 

pated and proceeded to adopt. It was, to bore clean 
holes in the boiler ends, fit in the smooth copper tubes 
as tightly as possible, solder up, arid then raise the 
steam. This plan succeeded perfectly, the expansion 
of the copper tubes completely filling up all interstices, 
and producing a perfectly watertight boiler, capable of 
withstanding extreme internal pressure. 

The mode of employing the steam-blast for the pur- 
pose of increasing the draught in the chimney, was also 


the subject of numerous experiments. 1 When the 
engine was first tried, it was thought that the blast 
iii the chimney was not sufficiently strong for the pur- 
pose of keeping up the intensity of the fire in the furnace, 
so as to produce high-pressure steam with the required 
velocity. The expedient was therefore adopted of 
hammering the copper tubes at the point at which 
they entered the chimney, whereby the blast was con- 
siderably sharpened ; and on a further trial it was found 
that the draught was increased to such an extent as to 
enable abundance of steam to be raised. The rationale 
of the blast may be simply explained by referring to the 
effect of contracting the pipe of a water-hose, by which 
the force of the jet of water is proportionately increased. 
\Videii the nozzle of the pipe, and the force is in like 
manner diminished. So is it with the steam-blast in 
the chimney of the locomotive. 

Doubts were, however, expressed whether the greater 
draught secured by the contraction of the blast-pipe was 
not counterbalanced in some degree by the negative 
pressure upon the piston. Hence a series of experiments 
was made with pipes of different diameters ; and their 
efficiency was tested by the amount of vacuum that 
was produced in the smoke-box. The degree of rare- 
faction was determined by a glass tube fixed to the 
bottom of the smoke-box, and descending into a bucket 
of water, the tube being open at both ends. As the 
rarefaction took place, the water would of course rise in 
the tube ; and the height to which it rose above the sur- 
face of the water in the bucket was made the measure of 
the amount of rarefaction. These experiments proved 
that a considerable increase of draught was obtained by 
the contraction of the orifice; accordingly, the two blast- 
pipes opening from the cylinders into either side of the 

1 For further details as to the steam-blast, see Robert Stephenson's Account, 
given in the Appendix to this volume. 



b 'Ro<-l<ei ' chimney, and turned up within it, were con- 
tracted slightly l)clow tlie area of the steam-ports ; ;uid 

he tore the eim-ine left the factory, the water rose in tin- 

glass tul)e three indies above tlie water in the hucket. 

Tlie other arrangements of the " llocket ' were brieily 
tliese :--tlie boiler was cylindrical with flat ends, six feet 
in length, and three feet four inches in diameter. The 
upper half of the boiler was used as a reservoir for the 
steam, tlie lower half being filled with water. Through 
the lower part, twenty-five copper tubes of three inches 




diameter extended, which were open to the fire-box at 

one end, and to the chimney at the otlier. The fire- 


box, or furnace, two feet wide and three feet high, was 
attached immediately behind the boiler, and was also 
surrounded with water. The cylinders of the engine 
were placed on each side of the boiler, in an oblique 
position, one end being nearly level with the top of the 
boiler at its after end, and the other pointing towards 


the centre of the foremost or driving pair of wheels, 
with which the connection was directly made from the 
piston-rod, to a pin on the outside of the wheel. The 
engine, together with its load of water, weighed only 
four tons and a quarter ; and it was supported on four 
wheels, not coupled. The tender was four-wheeled, 
and similar in shape to a waggon, the foremost parr 
holding the fuel, and the hind part a water-cask. 

When the "Rocket'' was finished, it was placed upon 
the Killing-worth railway for the purpose of experiment, 
The new boiler arrangement was found perfectly success- 
ful. The steam was raised rapidly and continuously, 
and in a quantity which then appeared marvellous. The 
same evening Robert dispatched a letter to his father 
at Liverpool, informing him, to his great joy, that the 
" Rocket' was " all right," and would be in complete 
working trim by the day of trial. The engine was 
shortly after sent by waggon to Carlisle, and thence 
si lipped for Liverpool. 

The time so much longed for by George Stephenson 
had now arrived, when the merits of the passenger loco- 
motive were to be put to a public test. He had fought 
the battle for it until now almost single-handed. En- 
grossed by his daily labours and anxieties, and harassed 
by difficulties and discouragements which would have 
crushed the spirit of a less resolute man, he had held 
firmly to his purpose through good and through evil 
report. The hostility which he experienced from some 
of the directors opposed to the adoption of the locomo- 
tive, was the circumstance that caused him the greatest 
grief of all ; for where he had looked for encouragement, 
he found only carping and opposition. But his pluck 
never failed him ; and now the " Rocket ' was upon the 
ground,- -to prove, to use his own words, "whether he 
was a man of his word or not." 

Great interest was felt at Liverpool, as well as 
throughout the country, in the approaching compe- 


tition. Kiiiriucers, scientific men. and mechanics, 
arrived from all quarters to witness the novel display 

of mechanical iimvimiiv on which such Lrivat results 

< , 

depended. The public uvnendlv were no indifferent 
spectators cither. The inhabitants of Liverpool, Man- 
chester, and the adjacent towns felt that the successful 
issue of the experiment would confer upon them indi- 
vidual benefits and local advantages almost incalculable, 
whilst populations at a distance waited for the result 
with almost equal interest. 

On the day appointed for the great competition of 
locomotives at Rainhill, the following engines were 
entered for the prize : 

1. Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson's 1 "Novelty." 

2. Mr. Timothy Hackworth's " Sanspareil." 

3. Messrs. R. Stephensoii and Co.'s " Rocket." 

4. Mr. BurstalTs " Perseverance." 

Another engine was entered by Mr. Brandreth of 
Liverpool the " Cycloped," weighing three tons, 
worked by a horse in a frame, but it could not be 
admitted to the competition. The above were the 
only four exhibited, out of a considerable number of 
engines constructed in different parts of the country 
in anticipation of this contest, many of which could not 
be satisfactorily completed by the day of trial. 

The ground on which the engines were to be tried 
was a level piece of railroad, about two miles in length. 
Each was required to make twenty trips, or equal to a 
journey of seventy miles, in the course of the day ; and 
the average rate of travelling was to be not under ten 
miles an hour. It was determined that, to avoid con- 
fusion, each engine should be tried separately, and on 
different days. 

1 The inventor of this engine was a 
Swede, who afterwards proceeded to 
the United States, and there achieved 

His Caloric Engine has so far proved a 
failure, bnt his iron cupola vessel, the 
" Monitor," must be admitted to have 

considerable distinction as an engineer, been a remarkable success in its way. 




The day fixed for the competition was the 1st of 
October, but to allow sufficient time to get the locomo- 
tives into good working order, the directors extended it 
to the 6th. On the morning of the 6th, the ground at 
Rainhill presented a lively appearance, and there was as 
much excitement as if the St. Leger were about to be 
run. Many thousand spectators looked on, amongst 
whom were some of the first engineers and mechanicians 
of the day. A stand w^as provided for the ladies ; 
the "beauty and fashion' of the neighbourhood were 
present, and the side of the railroad was lined with 
carriages of all descriptions. 



It was quite characteristic of the Stephensons, that, 
although their engine did not stand first on the list for 
trial, it was the first that was ready ; and it was accord- 
ingly ordered out by the judges for an experimental trip. 
Yet the " Rocket ' was by no means " the favourite ' 
with either the judges or the spectators. Nicholas 
Wood has since stated that a majority of the judges 
were strongly predisposed in favour of the " Novelty," 
and that " nine-tenths, if not ten-tenths, of the persons 
present, were against the " Rocket ' because of its ap- 
pearance." 1 Nearly every person favoured some other 

1 Mr. Wood's speech at Newcastle, 26th October, 1858. 


BO tllJlt tliriv Wits nothing for the kk Rockel I'llt 
the practical test. The first trip which it made \v;is 
<piite successful. It nm alumi twelve miles, without 
interruption, in about fifty-three minutes. 

The "Novelty was next called out. It was a light 

engine, very compact in appearance, carrying the water 
and fuel upon the same wheels as the engine. The 
weight of the whole was only three tons and one him- 

' C/ 

dredweight. A peculiarity of this engine \vas that the 
air was driven or forced through the fire by means of 
lellows. The day being now far advanced, and some 
dispute having arisen as to the method of assigning the 
proper load for the " Novelty," no particular experiment 
was made, further than that the engine traversed the 
line by way of exhibition, occasionally moving at the 
rate of twenty-four miles an hour. 

The " Sanspareil," constructed by Mr. Timothy Hack- 
worth, was next exhibited ; but no particular experiment 
\\as made with it on this day. This engine differed but 
little in its construction from the locomotive last supplied 
by George Stephenson to the Stockton and Darlington 

Kailway, of which Hackworth was the locomotive 


foreman. It had the double tube containing the fire 
passing along the inside of the boiler, and returning 
back to the same end at which it entered. It had also 
the steam-blast in the chimney ; but the contraction 
of the orifice by which the steam was thrown into the 
chimney, for the purpose of intensifying the draught, 
being a favourite idea of Mr. Hackworth (though of this 
Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney claims the credit), he had 
sharpened the blast of his engine in a remarkable 
degree ; and this was perhaps the only noticeable feature 
in the " Sanspareil." 

The contest was postponed until the following day ; 
but before the judges arrived 011 the ground, the bellows 
for creating the blast in the " Novelty ' ' gave way, and 
it was found incapable of going through its performance. 


A defect was also detected in the boiler of the " Sans- 
pareil ;" and Mr. Hackworth was allowed some further 
time to get it repaired. The large number of spectators 
who had assembled to witness the contest were oreatlv 

^^ /' 

disappointed at this postponement; but, to lessen it, 
Stephenson again brought out the " Eocket," and, 
attaching to it a coach containing thirty persons, he ran 
them along the line at the rate of from twenty-four to 
thirty miles an hour, much to their gratification and 
amazement. Before separating, the judges ordered the 
engine to be in readiness by eight o'clock on the follow- 
ing morning, to go through its definitive trial according 
to the prescribed conditions. 

On the morning of the 8th of October, the " Rocket ' 
^.vas again ready for the contest. The engine was taken 
to the extremity of the stage, the fire-box was filled 
with coke, the fire lighted, and the steam raised until it 
lifted the safety-valve loaded to a pressure of fifty pounds 
to the square inch. This proceeding occupied fifty- 
seven minutes. The engine then started on its journey, 
dragging after it about thirteen tons weight in waggons, 
and made the first ten trips backwards and forwards 
along the two miles of road, running the thirty-five 
miles, including stoppages, in an hour and forty-eight 
minutes. The second ten trips were in like manner 
performed in two hours and three minutes. The maxi- 
mum velocity attained during the trial trip was twenty- 
nine miles an hour, or about three times the speed that 
one of the judges of the competition had declared to be 
the limit of possibility. The average speed at which 
the whole of the journeys were performed was fifteen 
miles an hour, or five miles beyond the rate specified in 
the conditions published by the company. The entire 
performance excited the greatest astonishment amongst 
the assembled spectators ; the directors felt confident 
that their enterprise was now on the eve of success ; 
and George Stephenson rejoiced to think that in spite of 


;ill false prophets and ticklr counsellors, the locomotive' 
system was JIONV safe. AY hen the "Rocket," having 
performed all the conditions of the contest, arrived at 
the "grand stand' at the close of its day's successful 
run, Mr. Cropper one of the directors favourable to 
the fixed-engine system- -lifted up his hands, and ex- 
claimed, " Now has George Stephenson at last delivered 

Neither the " Novelty ' nor the " Sanspareil ' was 
ready for trial until the 10th, on the morning of which 
day an advertisement appeared, stating that the former 
engine was to be tried on that day, when it would 
perform more work than any engine upon the ground. 
The weight of the carriages attached to it was only 
about seven tons. The engine passed the first post in 
good style ; but in returning, the pipe from the forcing- 
pump burst and put an end to the trial. The pipe was 
afterwards repaired, and the engine made several trips 
by itself, in which it was said to have gone at the rate 
of from twenty-four to twenty-eight miles an hour. 

The "Sanspareil' was not ready until the 13th; 
and when its boiler and tender were filled with water, 
it was found to weigh four hundredweight beyond the 
weight specified in the published conditions as the limit 
of four-wheeled engines ; nevertheless the judges allowed 
it to run on the same footing as the other engines, to 
enable them to ascertain whether its merits entitled it to 
favourable consideration. It travelled at the average 
speed of about fourteen miles an hour, with its load 
attached ; but at the eighth trip the cold-water pump 
got wrong, and the engine could proceed no further. 

It was determined to award the premium to the 
successful engine on the following day, the 14th, on 
which occasion there was an unusual assemblage of 
spectators. The owners of the " Novelty ' pleaded for 
another trial ; and it was conceded. But again it broke 
down. Then Mr. Hackworth requested the opportunity 


for making another trial of his " Sanspareil." But the 
judges had now had enough of failures ; and they 
declined, on the ground that not only was the engine 
above the stipulated weight, hut that it was constructed 
on a plan which they could not recommend for adoption 
by the directors of the Company. One of the principal 
practical objections to this locomotive was the enormous 
quantity of coke consumed or wasted by it- -about 
092 Ibs. per hour when travelling caused by the sharp- 
ness of the steam blast in the chimney, which blew a 
large proportion of the burning coke into the air. 

The " Perseverance " of Mr. Burstall was found unable 
to move at more than five or six miles an hour ; and it 
was withdrawn from the contest at an early period. 
The " Rocket was thus the only engine that had per- 
formed, and more than performed, all the stipulated 
conditions ; and it was declared to be fully entitled to 
the prize of 500/., which was awarded to the Messrs. 
Stephenson and Booth accordingly. And further to 
show that the engine had been working quite within its 
powers, Mr. Stephenson ordered it to be brought upon 
the ground and detached from all iiicurnbrances, when, 
in making two trips, it was found to travel at the 
astonishing rate of thirty-five miles an hour. 

The " Rocket : had thus eclipsed the performances of 
all locomotive engines that had yet been constructed, 
and outstripped even the sanguine anticipations of its 
constructors. It satisfactorily answered the report of 
Messrs. Walker and Rastrick ; and established the effi- 
ciency of the locomotive for working the Liverpool and 
Manchester Railway, and indeed all future railways. 
The " Rocket " showed that a new power had been born 
into the world, full of activity and strength, with bound- 
less capability of work. It was the simple but admirable 
contrivance of the steam-blast, and its combination with 
the multitubular boiler, that at once gave locomotion a 
vigorous life, and secured the triumph of the railway 





system. 1 As has brm well nbsrrvnl, tliis wonderful 
ability to increase and multiply its powers of performance 
with the eiiK'i'-vney that demands them, has made this 

iriani engine the nohlesi creation of human wit, the very 

o / 

lion among machines. The success of the Hainhill rxperi- 
n lent as judged by the public, may be inferred from the 
fart that the shares of the Company immediately rose 
ten per cent., and nothing further was heard of the 
proposed twenty-one fixed engines, engine-houses, ropes, 
&c. All this cumbersome apparatus was thenceforward 
effectually disposed of. 

Very different now was the tone of those directors 
who had distinguished themselves by the persistency 
of their opposition to Mr. Stephenson's plans. Cool- 
ness gave way to eulogy, and hostility to unbounded 
offers of friendship ; after the manner of many men 
who run to the help of the strong. Deeply though 
the engineer had felt aggrieved by the conduct pur- 

1 The immense consequences in- 
volved in the success of the " Rocket," 
and the important influence the above 
contest, in which it came off the victor, 
exercised upon the future development 
of the railway system, might have led 
one to suppose that the directors of 
the Liverpool and Manchester Rail- 
way would have regarded the engine 
\\ith pride, and cherished it with 
care, as warriors prize a trusty weapon 
which has borne them victoriously 
through some grand historical battle. 
The French preserve with the greatest 
care the locomotive constructed by 
Cugnot, which is to this day to be 
seen in the Conservatoire des Arts et 
Metiers at Paris. But the " Rocket " 
was an engine of much greater histori- 
cal interest. And what became of the 
" Rocket " ? When heavier and more 
powerful engines were brought upon 
the road, the old " Rocket," becoming 
regarded as a thing of no value, was 
sold in 1837. It w r as purchased by 
Mr. Thompson, of Kirkhouse, the 
lessee of the Earl of Carlisle's coal 
and lime works near Carlisle. He 

worked the engine on the Midge- 
holme Railway for five or six years, 
during which it hauled coals from the 
pits to the town. There was wonder- 
ful vitality in the old engine, as the 
following circumstance proves. When 
the great contest for the representation 
of East Cumberland took place, and 
Sir James Graham w r as superseded by 
Major Aglionby, the "Rocket" was 
employed to convey the Alston express 
with the state of the poll from Midge- 
holme to Kirkhouse. On that occa- 
sion the engine was driven by Mr. 
Mark Thompson, and it ran the dis- 
tance of upwards of four miles in four 
and a-half minutes, thus reaching a 
speed of nearly sixty miles an hour- 
proving its still admirable qualities as 
an engine. But again it was super- 
seded by heavier engines ; for it only 
weighed about four tons, whereas the 
new engines were at least three times 
that weight. The " Rocket " was con- 
sequently laid up in ordinary in the 
yard at Kirkhouse, where, we believe, 
it still remains. 




sued towards him during this eventful struggle, by 
some from whom forbearance was to have been expected, 
he never entertained towards them in after life any 


angry feelings ; on the contrary, he forgave all. But 
though the directors afterwards passed unanimous reso- 
lutions eulogising " the great skill and unwearied energy' 
of their engineer, he himself, when speaking confiden- 
tially to those with whom he was most intimate, could 
not help pointing out the difference between his " foul- 
weather and fair-weather friends." Mr. Gooch says, 


that though naturally most cheerful and kind-hearted in 
his disposition, the anxiety and pressure which weighed 
upon his mind during the construction of the railway, 
had the effect of making him occasionally impatient and 
irritable, like a spirited horse touched by the spur ; 
though his original good nature from time to time shone 
through it all. When the line had been brought to a 
successful completion, a very marked change in him 
became visible. The irritability passed away, and when 
difficulties and vexations arose they were treated by him 
as matters of course, and with perfect composure and 


T 2 




THE directors of the Hallway now began to see daylight ; 

and tliev derived encouragement from the skilful manner 


in which their engineer had overcome the principal 
difficulties of the undertaking. He had formed a solid 
road over Chat Moss, and thus achieved one " impossi- 
bility ; ' and he had constructed a locomotive that 


could run at a speed of thirty miles an hour, thus 
vanquishing a still more formidable difficulty. 

About the middle of 1 8 2 9 the tunnel at Liverpool was 
finished ; and being lit up with gas, it was publicly 
exhibited one day in each week. Many thousand per- 
sons visited it at the charge of a shilling a head,- -the 
fund thus raised being appropriated partly to the support 
of the families of labourers who had been injured upon 
the line, and partly in contributions to the Manchester 
and Liverpool infirmaries. As promised by the en- 
gineer, a single line of way was completed over Chat 
Moss by the 1st of January, 1830; and on that day, 
the " Rocket ' with a carriage full of directors, engi- 
neers, and their friends, passed along the greater part 
of the road between Liverpool and Manchester. Mr. 
Stephensoii continued to direct his close attention to 
the improvement of the details of the locomotive, every 
successive trial of which proved more satisfactory. In 
this department, he had the benefit of the able and 
unremitting assistance of his son, who, in the workshops 
at Newcastle, directly superintended the construction of 
the new engines required for the public working of the 


railway. He did not by any means rest satisfied with 
the success, decided though it was, which had been 
achieved by the "Rocket." He regarded it but in the 
light of a successful experiment ; and every succeeding 
engine placed upon the railway exhibited some improve- 
ment on its predecessors. The arrangement of the parts, 
and the weight and proportions of the engines, were 
altered, as the experience of each successive day, or 
week, or month, suggested ; and it was soon found that 
the performances of the " Rocket" on the day of trial 
had been greatly within the powers of the locomotive. 

The first entire trip between Liverpool and Manchester 
was performed on the 14th of June, 1830, on the occa- 
sion of a board meeting being held at the latter town. 
The train was on this occasion drawn by the " Arrow," 
one of the new locomotives, in which the most recent 
improvements had been adopted. Mr. Stephenson him- 
self drove the engine, and Captain Scoresby, the circum- 
polar navigator, stood beside him on the foot-plate, and 
minuted the speed of the train. A great concourse of 
people assembled at both termini, as well as along the 
line, to witness the novel spectacle of a train of carriages 
dragged by an engine at a speed of seventeen miles an 
hour. On the return journey to Liverpool in the 
evening, the " Arrow" crossed Chat Moss at a speed of 
nearly twenty-seven miles an hour, reaching its destina- 
tion in about an hour and a half. 

In the mean time Mr. Stephenson and his assistant, 
Mr. Gooch, were diligently occupied in making the 
necessary preliminary arrangements for the conduct of 
the traffic against the time when the line should be ready 
for opening. The experiments made with the object of 
carrying on the passenger traffic at quick velocities 
were of an especially harassing and anxious character. 
Every w^eek, for nearly three months before the opening, 
trial trips were made to Newton and back, generally 
with two or three trains following each other, and carry- 


in-- aliMp-ther from two t< throe hundred persons. 
Tln->e irips were usually made on Saturday afternoons, 

when the Works coilld he more eol i \ . ! i i( ! 1 1 I y slopped 
and tlie line eleal'ed for the occasion. In tlie>e experi- 
ments Mr. Siephenson hud the :tMe assistance of Mr. 
Henry Booth, tlie secretary of the ( 'ompany, who eon- 
trived nmny of tlie arm n Cements in the passenger 
carriages, not the least valuable of which was his inven- 


til MI of the coupling screw, still in use on all passenger 

At length the line was finished, and ready for the 
public ceremony of the opening, which took place on 
tlie 15th of September, 1830, and attracted a vast 
number of spectators from all parts of the country. 
The completion of the railway was justly regarded as 
an important national event, and the ceremony of the 
opening was celebrated accordingly. The Duke of 
Wellington, then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, 
Secretary o'f State, Mr. Huskisson, one of the member- 
for Liverpool and an earnest supporter of the project 
from its commencement, were amongst the number of 
distinguished public personages present. 

Eight locomotive engines, constructed at the Stephen- 
son works, had been delivered and placed upon the line, 
the whole of which- had been tried and tested, weeks 
before, with perfect success. The several trains of 
carriages accommodated in all about six hundred per- 
sons. The " Northumbrian ' ' engine, driven by George 
Stephenson himself, headed the line of trains; then 
followed the " Phoenix," driven by Robert Stephenson ; 
the " North Star," by Robert Stephenson, senior (brother 
of George) ; the " Rocket," by Joseph Locke ; the 
" Dart," by Thomas L. Gooch ; the " Comet " by William 
Allcard ; the " Arrow," by Frederick Swanwick ; and 
the " Meteor," by Anthony Harding. The procession 
was cheered in its progress by thousands of spectators- 
through the deep ravine of Olive Mount ; up the Sutton 


incline ; over the great Sankey viaduct, beneath which a 
multitude of persons had assembled, carriages filling 
the narrow lanes, and barges crowding the river ; the 
people below gazing with wonder and admiration at 
the trains which sped along the line, far above their 
heads, at the rate of some twenty-four miles an hour. 

At Parkside, about seventeen miles from Liverpool, 
tlie engines stopped to take in water. Here a deplorable 
accident occurred to one of the illustrious visitors, which 
threw a deep shadow over the subsequent proceedings 
of the day. The " Northumbrian ' engine, with the 
carriage containing the Duke of Wellington, was drawn 
up on one line, in order that the whole of the trains on 
the other line might pass in review before him and his 
party. Mr. Huskisson had alighted from the carriage, 
and was standing on the opposite road, along which the 
" Rocket ' was observed rapidly corning up. At this 
moment the Duke of Wellington, between whom and 
Mr. Huskisson some coolness had existed, made a sign 
of recognition, and held out his hand. A hurried but 
friendly grasp was given ; and before it was loosened 
there was a general cry from the bystanders of " Get in, 
get in ! ' Flurried and confused, Mr. Huskisson endea- 
voured to get round the open door of the carriage, which 
projected over the opposite rail ; but in so doing he was 
struck down by the " Rocket," and falling with his leg 

doubled across the rail, the limb was instantly crushed. 


His first words, on being raised, were, " I have met my 
death," which unhappily proved true, for he expired 
that same evening in the parsonage of Eccles. It 
was cited at the time as a remarkable fact, that the 
" Northumbrian" engine, driven by George Stephenson 
himself, conveyed the wounded body of the unfortunate 
gentleman a distance of about fifteen miles in twenty- 
five minutes, or at the rate of thirty-six miles an hour. 
This incredible speed burst upon the world with the 
effect of a new and unlooked-for phenomenon. 

Tin- accident threw a u'looin over the rest of the 1 day's 

proceedings. The Duke <>!' Wellington and Sir Roberl 

Peel expressed ;i wish that the procession should return 
to Liverpool. It was. however, represented to them 
that ;i vast concourse of people IKK! assembled at Man- 
chester to witness the arrival of the trains ; that report 
would exa-'-vrate the mischief, if they did not complete 
the journey; and that a false panic on that day might 
seriously affect future railway travelling and the value 
of the Company's property. The party consented ac- 
cordingly to proceed to Manchester, but on the under- 
standing that they should return as soon as possible, 
and refrain from further festivity. 

As the trains approached Manchester, crowds of 
people were found covering the banks, the slopes of 
the cuttings, and even the railway itself. The multitude, 
become impatient and excited by the rumours which 
readied them, had outflanked the military, and all 

*/ / 

order was at an end. The people clambered about tin- 
carriages, holding on by the door handles, and many 
were tumbled over ; but, happily, no fatal accident 
occurred. At the Manchester station, the political ele- 
ment began to display itself ; placards about " Peterloo," 
&c., were exhibited, and brickbats were thrown at the 
carriage containing the Duke. On the carriages coming 
to a stand in the Manchester station the Duke did not 
descend, but remained seated, shaking hands with the 
women and children who were pushed forward by the 
crowd. Shortly after, the trains returned to Liverpool, 
which they reached, after considerable interruptions, in 
the dark, at a late hour. 

On the following morning the railway was opened 
for public traffic. The first train of 140 passengers was 
booked and sent on to Manchester, reaching it in the 
allotted time of two hours ; and from that time the 
traffic has regularly proceeded from day to day until 


It is scarcely necessary that we should speak at any 
length of the commercial results of the Liverpool and 
Manchester Railway. Suffice it to say that its success 
was complete and decisive. The anticipations of its 
projectors were, however, in many respects at fault. 
They had based their calculations almost entirely on the 
heavy merchandise traffic such as coal, cotton, and 
timber, relying little upon passengers ; whereas the 
receipts derived from the conveyance of passengers far 
exceeded those derived from merchandise of all kinds, 
which, for a time, continued a subordinate branch of the 
traffic. In the evidence given before the committee of 
the House of Commons, the promoters stated their ex- 
pectation of obtaining about one-half of the whole 
number of passengers which the coaches then running 
could carry, or about 400 a day. But the railway was 
scarcely opened before it carried on an average about 
1200 passengers daily ; and five years after the opening, 
it carried nearly half a million of persons yearly. So 
successful, indeed, was the passenger traffic, that it en- 
grossed the whole of the Company's small stock of 


For some time after the public opening of the line, 
Mr. Stephenson's ingenuity continued to be employed in 
devising improved methods for securing the safety and 
comfort of the travelling public. Few are aware of the 
thousand minute details which have to be arranged 
the forethought and contrivance that have to be exer- 
cised- -to enable the traveller by railway to accomplish 
his journey in safety. After the difficulties of con- 
structing a level road over bogs, across valleys, and 
through deep cuttings, have been overcome, the main- 
tenance of the way has to be provided for with con- 
tinuous care. Every rail with its fastenings must be 
complete to prevent risk of accident, and the road must 
be kept regularly ballasted up to the level to diminish 
the jolting of vehicles passing over it at high speeds. 


Then tin 1 stations must he protected by signals observ- 
able (Vein such a distance as !< enable the train to be 
stopped in event of an obstacle, such as a stopping or 
shunting train hcin.u' in the way. For SOUK- years tin- 
signals employed on tlie Liverpool railway were entirely 
iriven bv men with Hags of different colours stationed 
along tlie line; there were no fixed signals, nor electric 
telegraphs; but the traffic was nevertheless worked 
(piite as safely as under the more elaborate and com- 
plicated system of telegraphing which has since been 

From an early period it became obvious that the iron 
road as originally laid down was quite insufficient for 
the heavy traffic which it had to carry. The line was 
in the first place laid with fish-bellied rails of thirty- 
five pounds to the yard, calculated only for horse-traffic, 
or, at most, for engines like the " Rocket," of very light 
weight. But as the power and the weight of the loco- 
motives were increased, it was found that such rails 
were quite insufficient for the safe conduct of the traffic, 
and it therefore became necessary to re-lay the road with 
heavier and stronger rails at considerable expense. 

The details of the carrying stock had in like manner 
to be settled by experience. Everything had, as it 
were, to be begun from the beginning. The coal- 
waggon, it is true, served in some degree as a model for 
the railway-truck ; but the railway passenger-carriage 
was an entirely novel structure. It had to be mounted 
upon strong framing, of a peculiar kind, supported on 
springs to prevent jolting. Then there was the neces- 
sity for contriving some method of preventing hard 
bumping of the carriage-ends when the train was pulled 
up ; and hence the contrivance of buffer-springs and 
spring frames. For the purpose of stopping the train, 
brakes on an improved plan were also contrived, with 
new modes of lubricating the carriage-axles, on which 
the wheels revolved at an unusually high velocity. In 


all these contrivances, Mr. Stephenson' s inventiveness 
was kept constantly on the stretch ; arid though many 
improvements in detail have been effected since his 
time, the foundations were then laid by him of the 
present system of conducting railway traffic. As a 
curious illustration of the inventive ingenuity which he 


displayed in contriving the working of the Liverpool 
line, we may mention his invention of the Self-acting 
Brake. He early entertained the idea that the momen- 
tum of the running train might itself be made available 
for the purpose of checking its speed. He proposed to 
fit each carriage with a brake which should be called 
into action immediately on the locomotive at the head of 
the train being pulled up. The impetus of the carriages 
carrying them forward, the buffer-springs would be 
driven home, and, at the same time, by a simple 
arrangement of the mechanism, the brakes would be 


called into simultaneous action ; thus the wheels would 
be brought into a state of sledge, and the train speedily 
stopped. Tins plan was adopted by Mr. Stephenson 
before he left the Liverpool and Manchester Eailway, 
though it was afterwards discontinued ; and it is a 


remarkable fact, that this identical plan, with the addi- 
tion of a centrifugal apparatus, has quite recently been 
revived by M. Guerin, a French engineer, and exten- 
sively employed on foreign railways, as the best method 
of stopping railway trains in the most efficient manner 
and in the shortest time. 

Finally, Mr. Stephenson had to attend to the improve- 
ment of the power and speed of the locomotive always 
the grand object of his study,- -with a view to economy 
as well as regularity in the working of the railway. In 
the " Planet ' ' engine, delivered upon the line immediately 
subsequent to the public opening, all the improvements 
which had up to this time been contrived by him and 
his son were introduced in combination- -the blast-pipe, 
the tubular boiler, horizontal cylinders inside the smoke- 

284 iMi'i;oYi:Mi;\T UK TIIK LOCOMOTIVE CHAP. xiv. 

x, the cranked axle, ;ind tin- liiv-liox firmly lived t<> 

tin 1 bnilcr. Tin- lir>i l;id of goods conveyed (romLiver- 

j.ool to Manchester by tlie " Planet " \va> eighty 1<'iis in 

weight. :nnl the engine performed the journey against a 

strong 1 head wind ill two hours and ;i hall'. ()n another 


occasion, the same engine brought up a cargo of voters 
in >in Manchester to Liverpool, during a contested elec- 
tion, within a space of sixty minutes. The ' Samson," 
delivered in the following year, exhibited still further 
improvements, the most important of which was that of 
Ci>iil'liinj the i'ore and hind wheels of the engine. By 
this means, the adhesion of the wheels on the rails was 
more effectually secured, and thus the full hauling power 
of the locomotive was made available. The " Samson," 
shortly after it was placed upon the line, dragged after it 
a train of waggons weighing one hundred and fifty tons, 
at a speed of about twenty miles an hour ; the consump- 
tion of coke being reduced to only about a third of a 
pound per ton per mile. 

The rapid progress thus made will show that the 
inventive faculties of Mr. Stephenson and his son were 
kept fully on the stretch ; but their labours were amply 
repaid by the result. They were, doubtless, to some 
extent stimulated by the number of competitors who 
about the same time appeared as improvers of the loco- 
motive engine. Of these, the most prominent were the 
Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson, whose engine, the 
" Novelty," had excited such high expectations at the 
Eaiiihill competition. The directors of the railway, 
desirous of giving all parties a fair chance, ordered from 
those makers two engines on the same model ; but their 
performances not proving satisfactory, they were finally 
withdrawn. One of them slipped off the rails near the 
Sankey viaduct, and was nearly thrown over the em- 
bankment. The superiority of Mr. Stephenson' s loco- 
motives over all others that had yet been tried, induced 
the directors of the railway to require that the engines 


supplied to them by other builders should be constructed 
after the same model. Mr. Stephenson. himself always 
had the greatest faith in the superiority of his own 
engines over all others, and did not hesitate strongly to 
declare it. When it was once proposed to introduce the 
engines of another maker on the Manchester and Leeds 
line, he said, " Yery well ; I have no objection : but put 
them to this fair test. Hang one of -'s engines on 
to one of mine, back to back. Then let them, go at it ; 
and whichever walks away with the other, that's the 

The engineer had also to seek out the proper men to 
maintain and watch the road, and more especially to 
work the locomotive engines. Steadiness, sobriety, com- 
mon sense, and practical experience, were the qualities 
which he especially valued in those selected by him for 
that purpose. But where were the men of experience 
to be found ? Yery few railways were yet at work, and 
these w^ere almost exclusively confined to the northern 
coal counties ; hence a considerable proportion of the 
drivers and firemen employed on the Liverpool line 
were brought from the neighbourhood of Newcastle. 
Mr. Stephenson was, however, severely censured in the 
4 Edinburgh Eeview ' for the alleged preference shown 
by him in selecting workmen from his own county. It 
was there insisted that the local population had the first 
claim to be employed, and he was blamed for " intro- 
ducing into the country a numerous body of workmen, 
in various capacities, strangers to the soil and to the 
surrounding population ; thus wresting from the hands 
of those to whom they had naturally belonged, all the 
benefits which the enterprise and capital of the district 
had conferred." In the case of the drivers of stage- 
coaches, it was never regarded as a qualification for the 
performance of their duties that they should be natives 
of the parishes through which the coaches ran, but 
mainly that they should know something of the business 


of coach-driving. Mi 1 . Stephenson merely adopted tin- 

same course in M-lrcting liis drivers ;ind iiremen : ;ind 

though Durham and Northumberland supplied a eon- 
siderable proportion of them in thefirsl Instance, In- could 

not ;il\v;i\s find skilled workmen <'in>u_rli I'm- tin- ijn- 

purtant and responsible duties to be performed. It was 

;i savins: of his, that "lie could engineer mutter very 

, t 

well, and make it bend to his purpose, but his trivateM 
difficulty was in engineering nu j n" 

Mr. Stephenson did not think it necessary to vindicate 
himself from the above charge, hut Mr. Ilardman Karle, 
one of the directors of the Company, did so in an 
effectual manner, showing that of the six hundred per- 
sons employed in the working of the Liverpool line, 
not more than sixty had been recommended by their 
engineer, and of these a considerable number were per- 
sonally unknown to him. Some of them, indeed, had 
been brought up under his own eye, and were men 
whose character and qualifications he could vouch for. 
But these were not nearly enough for his purpose ; and 
he often wished that he could contrive heads and hands 
on which he might rely, as easily as he could construct 

railways and manufacture locomotives. As it was, 

Stephenson' s mechanics were in request all over Eng- 
land ; the Newcastle workshops continuing for many 
years to perform the part of a training school for en- 
gineers, arid to supply locomotive superintendents and 
drivers, not only for England but for nearly every 
country in Europe ; preference being given to them by 
the directors of railways, in consequence of their pre- 
vious training and experience, as well as because of 
their generally excellent qualities as steady and indus- 
trious workmen. 

The success of the Liverpool and Manchester experi- 
ment naturally excited great interest, People flocked to 
Lancashire from all quarters to see the steam-coach run- 
ning upon a railway at three times the speed of a mail- 


coach, and to enjoy the excitement of actually travelling 
in the wake of an engine at that incredible velocity. 
The travellers returned to their respective districts full 
of the wonders of the locomotive, considering it to be 
the greatest marvel of the age. Railways are familiar 
enough objects now, and our children who grow up in 
their midst may think little of them ; but thirty years 
since it was an event in one's life to see a locomotive, 
and to travel for the first time upon a public railroad. 

In remote districts, however, the stories told about 
the benefits conferred by the Liverpool railway were 
received with considerable incredulity, and the pro- 
posal to extend such roads in all directions through- 
out the country caused great alarm. In the districts 
through which stage-coaches ran, giving employment 
to large numbers of persons, it was apprehended 
that, if railways were established, the turnpike-roads 
would become deserted and grown over with grass, 
country inns and their buxom landladies would be 
ruined, the race of coach-drivers and hostlers would 
become extinct, and the breed of horses be entirely 
destroyed. But there was hope for the coaching interest, 
in the fact that the Government were employing their 
engineers to improve the public high roads so as to 
render railways unnecessary. It was announced in the 
papers that a saving of thirty miles would be effected by 
the new road between London and Holyhead, and an 
equal saving between London and Edinburgh. And to 
show what the speed of horses could accomplish, we find 
it set forth as an extraordinary fact, that the " Patent 
Tallyho Coach," in the year 1830 (when the Birming- 
ham line had been projected), performed the entire 
journey of 109 miles between London and Birmingham 

-breakfast included- -in seven hours and fifty minutes ! 
Great speed was also recorded on the Brighton road, the 
" Red Rover ' doing the distance between London and 
Brighton in four hours and a half. These speeds were 


not. howc\vr. secured without accidents. I'm* llicrc wa- 

sc;ircd\- a newspaper of tlic period ilia! <lnl not contain 
ii i 

one r more paragraphs headed, " Another dreadful coach 

The practicability of railway locomotion lirin^ now 


proyed, and its gn-at social and commercial advantag 
ascertained, the extension of the system was merely a 
(|iiestion of time, money, and labour. A line oppor- 
tunity proc-nted itself for the wise and judicious action 
of the Go\ eminent in the matter,- -the improvement <>{' 
the internal communications of a country being really 
one of its most important functions. But the Govern- 
ment of the day, though ready enough to spend money 
in improvements of the old turnpike roads, regarded the 
railroads with hostility, and met them with obstructions 
of all kinds. They seemed to think it their duty to 
protect the turnpike trusts, disregarding the paramount 
interest of the public. This may possibly account for 
the singular circumstance that, at the very time they 

o / 

were manifesting indifference or aversion to the loco- 
motive on the railroad, they were giving every encourage- 
ment to the locomotive on turnpike roads. In 1831, we 
find a Committee of the House of Commons appointed 
to inquire into and report upon- -riot the railway system 
-but the applicability of the steam carriage to common 
roads ; and, after investigation, the committee were so 
satisfied with the evidence taken, that they reported 
decidedly in favour of the road locomotive system. 
Though they ignored the railway, they recognised the 
steam carriage. 

But even a Report of the House of Commons- -power- 
ful though it be cannot alter the laws of gravity and 
friction ; and the road locomotive remained, what it ever 
will be, an impracticable machine. Not that it is im- 
possible to work a locomotive upon a common road ; 
but to work it to any profit at all as compared with the 
locomotive upon a railway. Numerous trials of steam 


carriages were made at the time by Sir Charles Dance, 
Mr. Hancock, Mr. Gurney, Sir James Anderson, and 
other distinguished gentlemen of influence. Journalists 
extolled their utility, compared with " the much-boasted 
application on railroads." But notwithstanding all this, 
and the House of Commons' Report in its favour, Mr. 
Stephensoii's first verdict, pronounced upon the road 
locomotive many years before, when he was only an 
engine- wright at Killing worth, was fully borne out by 
the result ; and it became day by day clearer that the 
attempt to introduce the engine into general use upon 
turnpike roads could only prove a delusion and a snare. 

Although the legislature took no initiative step in 
the direction, of railway extension, the public spirit and 
enterprise of the country did not fail it at this juncture. 
The English people, though they may be defective in 
their capacity for organization, are strong in individual- 
ism ; and not improbably their admirable qualities in 
the latter respect detract from their efficiency in the 
former. Thus, in all times, their greatest national enter- 
prises have not been planned by officialism and carried 
out upon any regular system, but have sprung, like 
their constitution, their laws, and their entire industrial 
arrangements, from the force of circumstances and the 
individual energies of the people. Hence railway exten- 
sion, like so many other great English enterprises, was 
now left to be carried out by the genius of English 
engineers, backed by the energy of the English public. 

The mode of action was characteristic and national. 
The execution of the new lines was undertaken entirely 
by joint-stock associations of proprietors, after the 
manner of the Stockton and Darlington, and Liverpool 
and Manchester companies. . These associations are con- 

1 Letter of Mr. John Herapath in riages, see ' The Economy of Steam- 

' Mechanics' Magazine,' vol. xv. p. power on Common Roads,' by C. F. 

123. For full information as to the T. Young, C.E. London, 1861. 
various trials made with steam-car- 



Formable to <>ur national habits, and lii well into <>m- 
system of laws. The\ eombine tin- power <>f vast re- 
somvrs with individual watchfulness :m<l motives nl' 
self-interesl : and lv their means gigantic undertakings, 

wliidi rlx'where would be impossible to any Itiil km^s 


;m<l emperors with greal n;iti<n;il resources ;M. command, 

were earried out by the co-operation <>!' private persons. 
An<l tin- results of tins combination of menus and of 
enterprise have been truly marvellous. "Within flic lil<- 
of I lie present generation, the private citizens of Kiiir- 
l;nnl enpip.Ml in railway extension Lave, in tlie l;iee of 
Government obstructions, and without taking a penny 
tVoin the public purse, executed a system of communi- 
cations involving works of the most gigantic kind, which. 
in their total mass, their cost, and their eminent public 

utility, far exceed the most famous national undertakings 

of any age or country. 

Mr. Stephenson was, of course, actively engaged in 
the construction of the numerous railways now projected 
l>y the joint-stock companies. During the formation of 
the Manchester and Liverpool line, he had been con- 
sulted respecting many projects of a similar kind. One 
of these was a short railway between Canterbury and 
Wbitstable, about six miles in length. He was too 
much occupied with the works at Liverpool to give this 
scheme much of his personal attention. But lie sent 
his assistant, Mr. John Dixon, to survey the line; and 
afterwards Mr. Locke to superintend the execution of 
the works. The act was obtained in 182G, and the line 
was opened for traffic in 1830. It was partly worked 
by fixed engine-power, and partly by Stephenson's loco- 
motives, similar to the engines used upon the Stockton 
and Darlington Railway. 

But the desire for railway extension principally per- 
vaded the manufacturing districts, especially after the 
successful opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line. 
The commercial classes of the larger towns soon became 


eager for a participation in the good which they had so 
recently derided. Eailway projects were set on foot in 
great numbers, and Manchester became a centre from 


which main lines and branches were started in all 
directions. The interest, how r ever, which attaches to 
these later schemes is of a much less absorbing kind 
than that which belongs to the early history of the rail- 
way and the steps by which it was mainly established. 
We naturally sympathise more keenly with the early 
struggles of a great principle, its trials and its diffi- 
culties, than with its after stages of success ; and, 
however gratified and astonished we may be at its 
consequences, the interest is in a great measure gone 
when its triumph has become a matter of certainty. 

The commercial results of the Liverpool and Man- 
chester line were so satisfactory, and indeed so greatly 
exceeded the expectations of its projectors, that many 
of the abandoned projects of the speculative year 1825 
were forthwith revived. An abundant crop of engineers 
sprang up, ready to execute railways of any extent. 
Now that the Liverpool and Manchester line had been 
made, and the practicability of working it by locomotive 
power had been proved, it was as easy for engineers to 
make railways and to work them, as it was for navi- 
gators to find America after Columbus had made the 
first voyage. George Stephenson had shown the way, 
and engineers forthwith crowded after him full of great 
projects. Mr. Francis Giles himself took the field as a 
locomotive railway engineer, attaching himself to the 
Newcastle and Carlisle and London and Southampton 
projects. Mr. Brunei appeared, in like manner, as the en- 
gineer of the line projected between London and Bristol ; 
and Mr. Braithwaite, the builder of the " Novelty " 
engine, as the engineer of a line from London to 

The first lines, however, which were actually con- 
structed subsequent to the opening of the Liverpool and 

u 2 


Manchester Railway, wen- in connexion with it, ;m<l 


principally in the county of Lancaster. Thus a branch 
w;is formal from Uolloii 1> Leigh, and anntlnr fn>m 

Leigh t" Kcnvoli, where it formed II jl 1 1 let 1( 1 1 \\itll the 

' I * ' 

main line between Liverpool and Manchester. Branches 

to Wiiran on the north. ;in<l to Kuncorii (lap and War- 
rintrton on the south ot'tlie same line, were also formed. 
A continuation of the latter, as far south as IJirniini:-- 
ham, was shortly after projected under the name of the 
(Irand Junction Railway. 

Tlie Grand Junction line was projected as early as 
the year 1824, when the Liverpool and Manchester 
M-herne was under discussion, and Mr. Stephenson then 
published a report on the subject. The plans were 
deposited, but the bill was thrown out on the opposition 
of the landowners and canal proprietors. "When en- 
gaged in making the survey, Mr. Stephenson called 
upon some of the landowners in the neighbourhood of 
Nantwich to obtain their assent, and was somewhat dis- 
gusted to learn that the agents of the canal companies 
had been before him, and described the locomotive to 
the farmers as a most frightful machine, emitting a 
breath as poisonous as the fabled dragon of old ; and 
telling them that if a bird flew over the district where 
one of these engines passed, it would .inevitably drop 
down dead ! The application for the bill was renewed 
in 1826, and again failed ; and at length it was deter- 
mined to wait the issue of the Liverpool and Manchester 
experiment. The act was eventually obtained in IS.'J.'I, 
by which time the projectors of railways had learnt 
the art of "conciliating' the landlords,- -and a very 
expensive process it proved. But it was the only 
mode of avoiding a still more expensive parliamentary 

When it w r as proposed to extend the advantages of 
railways to the population of the midland and southern 
counties of England, an immense amount of alarm was 


created in the minds of the country gentlemen. They 
did not relish the idea of private individuals, principally 
resident in the manufacturing districts, invading their 
domains ; and they everywhere rose up in arms against 
the " new-fangled roads." Colonel Sibthorpe openly 
declared his hatred of the " infernal railroads," and said 
tli at he " would rather meet a highwayman, or see a 
burglar on his premises, than an engineer ! ' Mr. 
Berkeley, the member for Cheltenham, at a public 
meeting in that town, re-echoed Colonel Sibthorpe' s 
sentiments, and " wished that the concoctors of every 
such scheme, with their solicitors and engineers, were at 
rest in Paradise ! The impression prevailed amongst 
the rural classes, that fox-covers and game-preserves 
would be seriously prejudiced by the formation of 
railroads ; that agricultural communications would be 
destroyed, land thrown out of cultivation, landowners 
and farmers reduced to beggary, the poor-rates increased 
through the number of persons thrown out of employ- 
ment by the railways, and all this in order that Liver- 
pool, Manchester, and Birmingham shopkeepers and 
manufacturers might establish a monstrous monopoly in 
railway traffic. 

The inhabitants of even some of the large towns were 
thrown into a state of consternation by the proposal 
to provide them with the accommodation of a railway. 
The line from London to Birmingham would naturally 
have passed close to the handsome town of Northamp- 
ton, and was so projected. But the inhabitants of the 
shire, urged on by the local press, and excited by men 
of influence and education, opposed the project, and 
succeeded in forcing the promoters, in their survey of 
the line, to pass the town at a distance. The neces- 
sity w r as thus involved of distorting the line, by which 
the enormous expense of constructing the Kilsby Tunnel 
was incurred. Not many years elapsed before the 
inhabitants of Northampton became clamorous for rail- 


\v;i\ accommodation, ;m<l ;i special branch W.MS eon- 
d l<>r them. Tin- additional <-"^t involved 1>\ tins 


deviation <>r the hn<' <-onld ni have amounted to 
i linn half a mi 1 1 n in sterling ; i IK- loss falling, not upon 
tin- shareholders only, lni mainly upon the public. 
Other towns in liir south followed tin- example t' 

Northampton in howling down the r;iilw;iys. Thus, 
when it was proposed to carry ;i line through Kent. l>v 
the populous county town of Maidstone, a public meet inn- 
was held to oppose tin- project, and the railway had not 
a single supporter amongst tin- townspeople. When at 
length forim-d through Kent, it passed Maidstone at a 
distance ; but in a few years the Maidstone burgesses, 
like those of Northampton, became clamorous for a 
railway; and a branch was formed for their accommo- 
dation. Apim, in a few years, they complained that 
the route \vas circuitous, as they bad compelled it to be; 
consequently another and shorter line was formed, to 
l>rhur Maidstone into more direct communication with 
tlie metropolis ; and it is expected that even a third line 
to the same place will shortly be under construction ! 


In like manner the London and Bristol (afterwards the 
(Jreat Western) Railway was vehemently opposed by 
the people of the towns through which the line was 
projected to pass ; and when the bill was thrown out by 
the Lords after 30, GOO/, bad been expended by the 
promoter.- --the inhabitants of Eton assembled, under 
the presidency of the Marquis of Chandos, to rejoice 
and congratulate themselves and the country 011 the 
defeat of the measure. Eton, however, has now the 
convenience of two railways to the metropolis. 

During the time that the works of the Liverpool 
and Manchester line were in progress, our engineer was 
consulted respecting a short railway proposed to be 
formed between Leicester and Swamiington, for the 
purpose of opening up a communication between the 
town of Leicester and the coal-fields in the western part 




of the county. Mr. Ellis, afterwards chairman of the 
Midland Railway- -like Edward Pease, a member of the 
Society of Friends- -was the projector of this under- 
taking. He had some difficulty, however, in getting 
the requisite capital subscribed for, the Leicester towns- 
people who had money being for the most part interested 
in canals. Mr. Ellis went over to Liverpool to invite 
George Stephenson to come upon the ground and survey 
the line. He did so, and then the projector told him of 
the difficulty he had in finding subscribers to the con- 
cern. " Give me a sheet," said Stephenson, " and I will 
raise the money for you in Liverpool." The engineer 
was as good as his w r ord, and in a short time the sheet 
was returned with the subscription complete. Mr. 
Stephenson was then asked to undertake the office of 
engineer for the line, but his answer w r as that he had 
thirty miles of railway in hand, which were enough for 
any engineer to attend to properly. Was there any per- 
son he could recommend ? 
" Well," said he, " I think 
my son Robert is com- 
petent to undertake the 
thing." Would Mr. Ste- 
phenson be answerable for 
him ? " Oh, yes, certainly." 
And Robert Stephenson, at 
twenty-seven years of age, 
was installed engineer of 



-. .- 

L-^""' ^-^---'*->?V' i il 
- - --i^ 

. /,ICCM 

:- m 

The requisite 
powers having 
been obtained, 
Robert Ste- 
phenson pro- 
ceeded with the 
construction of 
the railway, 
about sixteen 


linlJKHT ACTS AS KX< i INK Kit. 


miles in Icii-'ili. towards llic end <>!' .l.s:!0. Tlic works 
were comparatively easy, excepting at the Leicester end, 
where tlir young engineer encountered Ins iirsi still' bit of 
tiinnrllin-'. The line passed underground I'm- a mile and 
three-quarters, and ~>oo yards of its course lay through 
loose running sand. Tlie presence of tli is material ren- 
dered it necessary tor the engineer, in the first place, to 
construct a wooden tunnel to support the soil while the 
brickwork was being executed. This measure proved 
sufficient, and the whole was brought to a successful 
termination within a reasonable time. While the works 
were in progress, Robert kept up a regular correspond- 
ence with his father at Liverpool, consulting him on all 
points in which his greater experience was likely to be 
of service. Like his father, Robert was very observant, 
and always ready to seize opportunity by the forelock. 
It happened that the estate of Sriihston, near Ashby-de- 
la-Zouch, was advertised for sale ; and the young engi- 
neer's experience as a coal-viewer and practical geologist 
suggested to his mind that coal was most probably to be 
found underneath. He communicated his views to his 
father on the subject. 1 The estate lay in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the railway ; and if the conjecture 
proved correct, the finding of the coal must necessarily 
prove a most fortunate circumstance for the purchasers 

1 George Stephenson was himself 
always on the look-out for new coal- 
fields, and eventually became a large 
coal-owner in the neighbourhood of 
Chesterfield, through discovering new 
beds of that mineral while construct- 
ing the Midland Railway. As early 
as 1824: we find, from a letter written 
by him to Mr. Sandars, of Liverpool, 
handed to us by Robert Stephenson, 
that he was actively speculating on the 
subject of the strata underlying the 
line of the then proposed Liverpool and 
Manchester Railway. " On my way 
to Bolton," said he, " and whilst at 
Bolton, I collected a great deal of use- 
ful information respecting the coal- 

fields in that neighbourhood. It is 
my opinion that coal will be found 
under Chat Moss. I think there will 
be none under Kirkby Moss, but im- 
mediately on the south-east point of 
Mossbro Road, from where the rail- 
road crosses, I think it will be found ; 
and I believe the coal-field will pass 
up, even under Knowsley Hall, and 
continue through the whole of that 
high country by Prescott. But I 
should not advise any purchase to be 
made of coal-fields until a closer inves- 
tigation is made, even though you 
were certain of the Act passing." We 
are not aware whether these specula- 
tions have been verified or not. 


of the land. He accordingly requested his father to 
come over to Siiibston and look at the property, which 
he did ; and after a careful inspection of the ground, he 
arrived at the same conclusion as his son. 

The large manufacturing town of Leicester, ahout 
fourteen miles distant, had up to that time been exclu- 
sively supplied with coal brought by canal from Derby- 
shire ; and Mr. Stephenson saw that the railway under 
construction, from Swannington to Leicester, would 
furnish him with a ready market for any coals which 
he might find at Siiibston. Having induced two of his 
Liverpool friends to join him in the venture, the Snib- 
ston estate was purchased in 1831 : and shortly after, 
Stephenson removed his home from Liverpool to Alton 
Grange, for the purpose of superintending the sinking 
of the pit. He travelled thither by gig with his wife,- 
his favourite horse " Bobby performing the journey by 
easy stages. 

Sinking operations were immediately commenced, and 
proceeded satisfactorily until the old enemy, water, burst 
in upon the workmen, and threatened to drown them 
out. But by means of efficient pumping-engiiies, and 
the skilful casing of the shaft with segments of cast-iron 
a process called "tubbing," 1 which Mr. Stephenson 
was the first to adopt in the Midland Counties- -it was 
eventually made water-tight, and the sinking proceeded. 
When a depth of 166 feet had been reached, a still more 
formidable difficulty presented itself- -one which had 
baffled former sinkers in the neighbourhood, and deterred 
them from further operations. This was a remarkable 
bed of whiiistoiie or greenstone, which had originally 
been poured out as a sheet of burning lava over the 


Tubbing is now adopted in many 
cases as a substitute for brick- walling. 
The tubbing consists of short portions 
of cast-iron cylinder fixed in segments. 
Each weighs about 4 cwt., is about 
three or four feet long, and about 

three-eighths of an inch thick. These 
pieces are fitted closely together, 
length under length, and form an im- 
permeable wall along the sides of the 

denuded surface of tin- eoal measures; indeed il \V;is 

afterwards found that ii had turned to cinders one part 

of the scam of c<>;d with which il li;id come in contact. 
Tin- appearance of iliis hrd of solid rock \v;is so unusual 

;i circumstance in coal mining, tlm! some experienced 
sinkers urged Stephenson to proceed no further, believing 
flic occurrence ol'lhc dyke ;it lh;it point to IK- altogether 
fatal to his enterprise. I>ut, with liis faith still iirm in 
the existence of coal underneath, he fell hack upon his old 
motto of " Persevere ! ' He determined to go on boring : 
and down through the solid rock he went until, twenty- 
two feet lower, lie came upon the coal measures. In the 
mean time, however, lest the boring at that point should 
prove unsuccessful, he had commenced sinking another 
pair of shafts 1 about a quarter of a mile west of the 
" fault ;" and after about nine months' labour he reached 
the principal seam, called the " main coal." 

The works were then opened out on a large scale, and 
Mr. Stephenson had the pleasure and good fortune to 
send the first train of main coal to Leicester by railway. 
The price was immediately reduced there to about 85. a 
ton, effecting a pecuniary saving to the inhabitants of 
the town of about 40,000^. per annum, or equivalent to 
the whole amount then collected in Government taxes 
and local rates, besides giving an impetus to the manu- 
facturing prosperity of the place, which has continued 
down to the present day. The correct and scientific prin- 
ciples upon which the mining operations at Snibston were 
conducted offered a salutary example to the neighbour- 
ing colliery owners. The numerous improvements there 
introduced were freely exhibited to all, and they were 
afterwards reproduced in many forms all over the Midland 
Counties, greatly to the advantage of the mining interests. 

1 Mr. Stephenson was strongly in safety of the persons working in the 

favour of working and ventilating coal- pit, in the event of the occurrence of 

mines by means of more shafts than any of the numerous accidents inci- 

one. He considered the provision of dent to coal-mining, 
at least a second shaft essential for the 


At the same time Mr. Stepheiisoii endeavoured to 
extend the benefit of railways throughout the district in 
which he now resided. He suggested to Lord Stamford 
the importance of constructing a branch line from the 
Leicester and Swanningtoii Railway through his pro- 
perty, principally for the purpose of opening out his 
fine granite quarries at Groby. The valuable advice 
was taken by Lord Stamford, and Mr. Stephensoii laid 
out the line for him and superintended the works gra- 
tuitously. Another improvement which he effected for 
Lord Talbot proved of even greater pecuniary value. 
He contrived for his Lordship, with no slight difficulty, 
a plan for "tubbing off' the fresh water from the salt 
at his mines near Tamworth, which enabled the salt- 
works there to be subsequently carried on to a great 
profit, which had not before been practicable. Mr. 
Stephensoii was less successful in his endeavours to 
induce the late Marquis of Hastings to consent to the 
Birmingham and Derby Railway, of which he was the 
engineer, passing through the mineral district of Ashby- 
de-la-Zouch. The Marquis was the principal owner of 
the colliery property in the neighbourhood, and Mr. 
Stephensoii calculated upon his Lordship's influence in 
support of a scheme so certain to increase the value of 
his estate. But the Marquis, like many others of his 
class, did not yet detect the great advantages of rail- 
ways, and he threatened his determined opposition if 
the Derby line were attempted to be brought through 
his coal-field. The line was consequently taken further 
to the west, by way of Burton ; and thus Ashby for a 
time lost the benefits of railway communication. Twenty 
years elapsed before Mr. Stephensoii' s designs for its 
accommodation were carried into effect. 

Nor was Mr. Stephensoii less attentive to the comfort 
and well-being of those immediately dependent upon 
him- -the workpeople of the Siiibston colliery and their 
families. Unlike many of those large employers who 


('AUK Foil HIS 


have " sprung from I lie ranks," lie was one of I IK- Id IK lest 

and most indulffenl of masters, He would liavc a fair 

dav's work I'm 1 a lair day's wages; hut lie Qever forgot 
tliat the employer liad Ins duties as well as Ins rights. 

1 ' 

First of all, lie attended to the proper lioine aCCOmmoda- 
tion of Ins workpeople. ITe erected a village of com- 
fortable cottages, eacb provided with a snug little garden, 
lie was also instrumental in erecting a dum-li adja<-ent 
to the work's, as well as Church schools for the education 
of the colliers' children ; and witli that broad catholicity 
of sentiment which distinguished him, lie further pro- 
vided a chapel and a school-house for the use of the 
Dissenting* portion of the colliers and their families- an 
example of benevolent liberality which was not without 
a salutary influence upon the neighbouring employers. 


( \ / // , / 


// 1 '/'.- *t '// 






OF the numerous extensive projects which followed close 
upon the completion of the Liverpool and Manchester 
line, and the locomotive triumph at Rainhill, that of 
a railway between London and Birmingham was the 
most important. The scheme originated at the latter 
place in 1830. Two committees were formed, and two 
plans were proposed. One was of a line to London by 
way of Oxford, and the other by way of Coventry. 
There was at that early period less of the fighting spirit 
nmoiigst railway projectors which unhappily prevailed 
at a later date. The simple object of the promoters of 
both schemes being to secure the advantages of railway 
communication with the metropolis, they wisely deter- 
mined to combine their strength to secure it. They 
then resolved to call George Stepheiisoii to their aid, 
and requested him to advise them as to the two schemes 
which were before them. After a careful examination 
of the country, Mr. Stephensoii reported in favour of 
the Coventry route, when the Lancashire gentlemen, 
who were the principal subscribers to the project, having 
every confidence in his judgment, supported his deci- 
sion, and the line recommended by him was adopted 

At the meeting of the promoters held at Birmingham 
to determine on the appointment of the engineer for the 
railway, there was a strong party in favour of associating 
with Mr. Stephensoii a gentleman with whom he had 
been brought into serious collision in the course of the 


Liverpool mid Manchester undertaking. Wln-n the 

offer was made to liiin thai lie should In- joint engineer 

with tin.' other. IK- requested leave t> retire .-Hid consider 
tin- proposal with his son. The iwo walked into St. 

Philip's churchyard, \\ hi<-h adjoined the phice of meet- 
i < ' i 

in--, and debated the proposal. 'The l-itherwas in favour 

of acreptilig it. His Struggle heretofore h;id heell so 

hard, that lie could not hear the thought of missing so 
promising an opportunity of professional advancement. 
But the son. foreseeing the jealousies and heartburnings 
which the joint engineersliip would most probably create, 
recommended to his father the answer which Mr. Brad- 
si iaw gave, when shares in the Liverpool and Manchester 
line were offered to the Duke of Bridgewater's Trustees 
-"All or none!' "Well, I believe you are right." 
said Mr. Stephensoii ; and returning to the Committee. 
lie announced to them his decision. "Then 'all' he. it !' 
replied the Chairman ; and lie was at once appointed 
the engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway 
in conjunction with his son. 

The line, as originally laid out, was to have had its 


London terminus at Maiden Lane, King's Cross, the site 
of the present Great Northern Station : it passed through 
Cashiobury and Grove Parks, the seats of Lord Essex 
and Lord Clarendon, and along the Hemel Hempstead 
and Little Gocldesden valleys, in Hertfordshire. This 
latter portion of the project excited a vehement oppo- 
sition 011 the part of the landowners, who formed a 
powerful confederacy against the bill. The principal 
parties who took an active part in the opposition were 
Lady Bridgewater and her trustees, Lord Essex, and 
Sir Astley Cooper, supported by the Grand Junction 
Canal Company. By their influence the landowners 
throughout the counties of Hertford and Buckingham 
organised themselves to oppose the measure. The 
time for preparing the plans to be deposited with the 
several clerks of the peace, as required by the standing 


orders of Parliament, being very limited, the necessary 
documents were prepared in great haste, and were 
deposited in such an imperfect state as to give just 
grounds for presuming that they would not pass the 
ordeal of the Standing Orders Committee. It was also 
thought that alterations might he made in some parts of 
the railway which would remove the objections of the 
principal landowners, and it was therefore determined 
to postpone the application to Parliament until the 
following session. 

In the mean time the opponents of the bill out of 
doors were not idle. Numerous pamphlets were pub- 
lished, calling on the public to " beware of the bubbles," 
and holding up the promoters of railways to ridicule. 
They were compared to St. John Long and similar 
quacks, and pronounced fitter for Bedlam than to be 
left at large. The canal proprietors, landowners, and 
road trustees, made common cause in decrying and 
opposing the project. The failure of railways was con- 
fidently predicted indeed, it was elaborately attempted 
to be proved that they had failed -, 1 and it was indus- 
triously spread abroad that the locomotive engines, 
having been found useless and highly dangerous on the 
Liverpool and Manchester line, were immediately to be 

1 In a book published in 1834, en- still further improved, and steam- 
titled ' Piailroad Impositions Detected,' | carriages will be in the field many 
by Richard Cort, son of the inventor < times more profitable than railways 

of the iron-puddling process, the 
" Bubble Railway Speculations " of 
the time were strongly inveighed 

ever can be, and eventually quite as 
expeditious." And again : " As an 
additional comfort to shareholders in 

against: The writer proved incontro- the London and Birmingham Railway, 
vertibly, to his own satis faction, that it should be observed that in less than 
the Liverpool and Manchester line : twelve months from the passing of the 
had not, during the time it had been Bill for the Granite Road from Lon- 
at work, made so much as one per don to Birmingham, now actually 
cent, profit, and that it must soon planning side by side of that untbrtu- 
cease to pay any dividend whatever, nate speculation, the stone tramway 
and involve its proprietors in hopeless will be ready to receive steam-car- 
ruin. With canals and common roads, riages, to enable them to run quite as 
however, the case was altogether dit- . fast as the iron railway-coaches. If 
ferent. " Long before any more new this be true, who will subscribe one 
lines can be constructed," said the farthing to the Birmingham railway ? " 
writer, " inland navigation will be 




abandoned m lavom- of Imr- -a rumour whieh the 
directors of the Company considered it necessary publicly 

1 / 

to enntradiet. 

I'nMie meetings were held in nil the counties tlinmirli 

which the hue would pass between London and Bir- 
mingham, at which the project was denounced, and 
strong resolutions were passed against it. The county 
meetings of Northampton 1 were held at Towcester ; of 
Bedford at Lriirliton Buzzard; of Buckingham at Stony 
Stratford; of Hertford at AY at ford and Great Berkhamp- 
stead ; and of Middlesex, in Exeter Hall, London. It 

1 The opposition of tin* town of 
Northampton, above referred to (p. 
L". '.">), was generally understood at the 
time to have had the effect of compel- 
ling the engineer to deviate the line so 
a>- to avoid that place, and to render 
neci ssary the construction of the 
Kilsby Tunnel. This had been often 
.-rated without contradiction, and was 
repeated in tin- lirst edition of this 
work, published in Is57. That state- 
ment having come under the notice of 
Mr. YV. T. lli-iiins, Mayor <.l North- 
ampton at the time, he addressed a 
letter to the ' Times,' dated Septem- 
ber 19th, of that year, enclosing the 
copy of a resolution passed at a public 
meeting- of the inhabitants held in 
November, Is30 " That it is the 
opinion of this meeting that it is 
highly desirable that such railway 
should approach as near to the town 
of Northampton as possible." On 
this the author wrote to Robert Ste- 
phenson for further information, and 
the following was his reply, dated 
30th September, 1857 : " if may be 
quite true what the Mayor of North- 
ampton says, but it certainly does 
not convey the Avhole truth. Meet- 
ings were held in almost every town 
on the hue, both ior and against the 
railway, but Northampton distin- 
guished itself by being rather more 
furious than other places in opposition 
to railways, and begged that the line 
might be kept away from them. It 
is true that the low level of North- 
ampton presented a very great objec- 
tion to the line approaching it nearer 

than it does; but I had a strong li-an- 
ing lor that direction, because it would 
have admitted of the line approaching 
the Kilsby ridge up the Althorp val- 
ley in a favourable manner. 1 was 
anxious to go in that dinetioii fur 
another reason, viz., that the line 
would have reached a point better 
calculated than Rugby for command- 
ing the midland and northern coun- 
ties. If you look at the map, you 
will easily see the bearing of this 
view. The line by Banbury and 
Warwick I soon abandoned, in conse- 
quence of feeling the absolute im- 
portance of enabling the London and 
Birmingham to command the mid- 


land counties and the districts now 
traversed by the North Midland. No- 
thing saved a direct line to Man- 
chester in 1845, but the general posi- 
tion of the London and Birmingham, 
and especially the bending northwards 
and passing through Paigby, instead 
of bending southwards, and passing 
through Banbury and Warwick, which 
latter course was strongly urged upon 
me by some of the most influential 
Birmingham people. Few persons 
have any notion of how completely 
the whole system of our railways has 
been influenced by the bend north- 
wards at Rugby, to which I have re- 
ferred. Scarcely a single line that 
now exists to the north of that point 
would have been made as it now is, 
but for the determination I then 
formed as to the direction in which 
the railway should be constructed." 


was insisted at those meetings that there was no necessity 
whatever for accelerating the existing communications, 
there being already abundant means of conveyance for 
travellers by the coaches daily travelling through the 
district at ten miles an hour, whilst there was water- 
carriage for heavy goods to a much greater extent than 
had ever been required. Deputations from the pro- 
moters of the railway attended some of these meetings 
for the purpose of stating their case, but the land- 
owners would not permit them to be heard. The Earls 
of Clarendon and Essex were the most powerful oppo- 
nents of the measure, and the other landed proprietors 
followed in their wake. The attempt was made to 
conciliate these landlords by explanations, but all such 
efforts proved futile. 

" I remember," said Robert Stephenson, describing 
the opposition, " that we called one day on Sir Astley 
Cooper, the eminent surgeon, in the hope of overcoming 
his aversion to the railway. He was one of our most 
inveterate and influential opponents. His house was at 
Hemel Hempstead, and the line was so laid out as to 
pass through part of his property. We found a courtly, 
fine-looking old gentleman, of very stately manners, who 
received us kindly and heard all we had to say in favour 
of the project. But he was quite inflexible in his oppo- 
sition to it. No deviation or improvement that we could 
suggest had the slightest effect in conciliating him. He 
was opposed to railways generally, and to this in parti- 
cular. ' Your scheme,' said he, ' is preposterous in the 
extreme. It is of so extravagant a character, as to be 
positively absurd. Then look at the recklessness of 
your proceedings ! You are proposing to cut up our 
estates in all directions for the purpose of making an 
unnecessary road. Do you think for one moment of 

/ f 

the destruction of property involved by it ? Why, 
gentlemen, if this sort of thing be permitted to go 
on, you will in a very few years destroy the noblesse ! ' 



left the honourable baronet withoul having pn>- 
duced the slighted e fieri upon him, excepting perhaps, 

it mill-Ill In-, increased exasperation against our scheme. 
uld imt help observing to my companions as we left 
house. Well. it is ivnlly provoking to lind one \vlm 
has lierii made a " Sir ' for mltin^- llint \\-n out of 
George tin* Fourth's neck, charging us with contem- 
plating tlie destruction of the noblesse, because we pn>- 
to confer upon In'm tlie benefits ol';i railroad/ 

]:cin^ the opposition of the owners of land, 
it was with the greatest difficulty that an accurate 
survey of the line could be made. At one point the 
vigilance of the landowners and their servants was 
such, that the surveyors were effectually prevented 
taking the levels by the light of day; and it was 
only at length accomplished at night by means of dark 
lanterns. There was one clergyman, who made such 
alarming demonstrations of his opposition, that the ex- 
traordinary expedient was resorted to of surveying his 
property during the time he was engaged in the pulpit. 
This was managed by having a strong force of sur- 
veyors in readiness to commence their operations, who 
entered the clergyman's grounds on one side the moment 
they saw him fairly off them on the other. By a well 
organised and systematic arrangement each man con- 
cluded his allotted task just as the reverend gentleman 
concluded his sermon; so that, before he left the church, 
the deed was done, and the sinners had all decamped. 
Similar opposition was offered at many other points. 
but ineffectually. The laborious application of Robert 
Stephenson was such, that in examining the country to 
ascertain the best line, he walked the whole distance 
between London and Birmingham upwards of twenty 
times. He was ably supported by his staff of surveyors 
under the direction of Mr. Glooch, whose united perse- 
verance eventually overcame all obstacles ; and by the 
end of 1831 the requisite plans were deposited prepara- 


tory to an application being made to Parliament in the 
ensuing session. 

The principal alterations made in the new line were 
at the London end ; the terminus being changed from 
Maiden Lane to a large piece of open land adjoining the 
Regent's Canal- -the site of the present London and 
North- Western Goods Station ; and also at Watford, 
where the direction of the line was altered so as en- 
tirely to avoid the parks of Lords Essex and Clarendon. 
This latter diversion, however, inflicted on the public 
the inconvenience of the Watford Tunnel, about a mile 
in length, and on the company a largely increased out- 
lay for its construction. The Hemel Hempstead and 
Goddesden valleys were also avoided, and the line 
proceeded by the towns of Berkhampstead and Tring. 

It was expected that these alterations would have the 
effect of mitigating, if not of entirely averting, the 
powerful opposition of the landowners ; but it was 
found, on the contrary, to become more violent than 
ever, although the grounds of complaint in regard to 
their parks and residences had been almost entirely 
removed. The most exaggerated alarms continued to be 
entertained, especially by those who had never seen a 
railway ; and although there were a few country gentle- 
men who took a different view of the subject, when the 
bill for the altered line was introduced into Parliament 
in the session of 1832, the owners of nearly seven-eighths 
of the land required for the railway were returned as 
dissentients. It was, however, a noticeable fact, that 
Lords Derby and Seftoii, who had so vehemently 
opposed the Liverpool Railway in all its stages, were 
found among the assentients to the London and Bir- 
mingham line. The scheme had, it is true, many 
warm friends and supporters, but these were princi- 
pally confined to classes possessing more intelligence 
than influence. Indeed, the change which was rapidly 
taking place in public opinion on the subject of rail- 

x 2 

308 nlTMSITloN T< Till-; HILL. CHAP, XV. 

ways induced (In- prom- t-rs in mil leipnte ;i favourable 

issue in tlu-ir ;ipplie;iti<>ii. DOtwithstanding the hostility 

of tin* landowners. They also drew ;> favourable 

augurv from tlir t'net tliiit ilic (iniiid Junction Canal 
< '"iiipiinv, ;d though still opposing the measure as strenu- 
ously as ever, so far ;is the inlluenre of its proprietors 

collectively and individually extended. ;md \y;iieliiniv nil 
i i 

the proceedings of tho bill with a jealous eye. did not 
openly appear in tlie ranks of its opponents, and, what 
was of still greater significance, did not open their 
purse-strings to supply funds for the opposition. 

TVhen the bill went before the Committee of the Com- 
mons, a formidable array of evidence was produced, 
All the railway experience of the day was brought t> 
bear in support of the measure, and all that interested 
opposition could do was set in motion against it. The 
necessity for an improved mode of communication 
between London and Birmingham was clearly demon- 
strated ; and the engineering evidence was regarded as 
quite satisfactory. So strong an impression was made 
upon the Committee, that the result was no longer doubt- 
ful so far as the Commons were concerned ; but it w;is 
considered very desirable that the case should be fully 
brought out in evidence for the information of the public, 
and the whole of the witnesses in support of the bill, 
about a hundred in number, were examined at great 
length. The opponents confined themselves principally 
to cross-examination, without producing direct evidence 
of their own ; reserving their main opposition for the 
House of Lords, where they knew that their strength 
lay. Not a single fact was proved against the utility 
of the measure, and the bill passed the Committee, and 
afterwards the third reading 1 in the Commons, bv lar^e 

O t/ 


It was then sent to the House of Lords, and went into 
Committee, when a similar mass of testimony was again 
gone through during seven day>. An overwhelming 


case was made out as before ; though an attempt was 
made to break down the evidence of the witnesses on 
cross-examination. The feasibility of the route was 
questioned, and the greatest conceivable difficulties were 
suggested. Their lordships seemed to take quite a 
paternal interest in the protection of the public against 
possible loss by the formation of the line. The Com- 
mittee required that the promoters should prove the 
traffic to be brought upon the railway, and that the 
profits derived from the working should pay a divi- 
dend of from six to eight per cent, upon the money 
invested. A few years after, the policy of Parlia- 
ment completely changed in this respect. When the 
landed interest found railway companies, paying from 
six to ten times the marketable value of the land taken, 
they were ready to grant duplicate lines through the 
same districts, without proving any traffic whatever. 

It soon became evident, after the proceedings had 
been opened before the Committee of the Lords, that 
the fate of the bill had been determined before a word 
of the evidence had been heard. At that time the 
committees were open to all peers ; and the promoters 
of the bill found, to their dismay, many of the lords 
who were avowed opponents of the measure as land- 
owners, sitting as judges to decide its fate. Their 
principal object seemed to be, to bring the proceedings 
to a termination as quickly as possible. An attempt at 
negociation was made in the course of the proceedings 
in committee, but failed, and the bill was thrown out, 
on the motion of Earl Brownlow, one of Lady Bridge- 
water's trustees ; but though carried by a large majority, 
the vote was far from -unanimous. 

As the result had been foreseen, measures were 
taken to neutralise the effect of this decision as 
regarded future operations. Not less than 32,000^. 
had been expended in preliminary and parliamentary 
expenses up to this stage ; but the promoters deter- 


mined ii<>t to !oi>k l>;ick, ;tinl forthwith nmde arrange- 
ment- for prosecuting tip- hill m ;i luimv session. A 

nn-rtiiiLi' "I" the friends of the measure was held in 
London, intended l.y members of both Houses of 

Parliament, ;m<l 1>\ Leading bankers and merchants: 

mid ;i scries of resolutions \v;is pa^-d. declaring their 

ronvielion of tin- necessity l<>r Ilie railway, MIK! depn- 
entiliL: 1 tlie opposition by which it liM(l been encountered. 

Lord \Yharncliffe, who had acted us the chairman of the 
Lords' Committee, attributed the failure of the bill cn- 
tirelv to the lando\\'iiers ; and Mr. Grlvu subsequently 
deelaretl that they had tried to smother the bill by the 
liigii price which they demanded for their property. It 
was determined to reintroduce the bill in the following 
M'ssion (1833), and measures were taken to prosecute it 
vigorously. Strange to say, the bill on this occasion 
passed both Houses silently ami almost without oppo- 
sition. The mystery was afterwards solved by the 
appearance of a circular issued by the directors of the 
company, in which it was stated, that they had opened 
" negotiations ' with the most influential of their oppo- 
nents ; that " these measures had been successful to a 
greater extent than they had ventured to anticipate ; 
and the most active and formidable had been concili- 
ated." An instructive commentary on the mode by 
which these noble lords and influential landed pro- 
prietors had been " conciliated," is found in the simple 
fact that the estimate for land was nearly trebled, 
and that the owners were paid about 750, GOO/, for 
what had been originally estimated at 250, 0001. The 
total expenses of carrying the bill through Parliament 
amounted to the frightful sum of 72,8G8/. 

The landowners having thus been " conciliated," the 
promoters of the measure were at length permitted to 
proceed with the formation of their great highway, and 
allowed to benefit the country by carrying out one of 
the grandest public works that has ever been executed 


in England, the utility of which may almost be pro- 
nounced unparalleled. Eighty miles of the railway 
were shortly under construction ; the works were let 
(within the estimates) to contractors, who were neces- 
sarily for the most part new to such work. The business 
of railway construction was not then well understood. 
There were no leviathans among contractors as now, 
able to undertake the formation of a line of railway 
hundreds of miles in length ; they were for the most 
part men of small capital and slender experience. Their 
tools and machinery were imperfect ; they did not 
understand the economy of time and piece labour ; the 
workmen, as well as their masters, had still to learn 
their trade ; and every movement of an engineer was 
attended with outlays, which were the inevitable result 
of a new system of things, but which each succeeding 
day's experience tended to diminish. 

The difficulties encountered by Robert Stephenson 
in constructing the line were thus very great ; but the 
most formidable of them originated in the character of 
the works themselves. Extensive tunnels had to be 
driven, through unknown strata, and miles of under- 
ground excavation had to be carried out in order to 
form a level road from valley to valley under the inter- 
vening ridges. This kind of work was the newest of 
all to the contractors of that day. The experience of 
the Messrs. Stephenson in the collieries of the North, 
made them, of all living engineers, the best fitted to 
grapple with such difficulties ; yet even they, with all 
their practical knowledge, could scarcely have foreseen 
or anticipated the serious obstacles they were called 
upon to encounter and overcome in executing the for- 
midable cuttings, embankments, and tunnels of the 
London and Birmingham Railway. It would be an 
uninteresting, as it would be a fruitless task, to attempt 
to describe these w r orks in detail ; but a general outline 
of their extraordinary character and extent may not be 
out of place. 



) \\ KV 




3 r f, I 


' .yi 4/v/ve 

- - 




Tin- Icliu'lli nf r;iil\v:iy to lc COn- 
liclwccli Lnnclnii ;ilid 1)11- 
\\;is 1 I'J] miles. Tlir lin- 
crossed ;t scries of low-lviii.u- districts 
se|;il';ite(l IVolii rnrli other 1 >V COH- 

siderahle ridges of liills; ;uid it was 
the object of the engineer 1 cross 
the valleys ;it ;is hi^h ;ui clev;iiion, 
and the liills at as low a one, as 
possible. The high ground was 1 IK -re- 
fore cut down and the "stuff" ]<<! 
into embankments, in some places of 
great height and extent, so as to form 
a road upon as level a plane as was 
considered practicable for the work- 
ing of the locomotive engine. In 
some places, the high grounds were 
passed in open cuttings, as at the 
Oxhey summit near Harrow, Duds- 
well, Tring, Denbigh Hall, and Blis- 
worth ; whilst in others it was neces- 
sary to bore through them in tunnels 
with deep cuttings at either end, as at 
Primrose Hill, Watford, and Kilsby. 
The most formidable excavations 
on the line are those at Tring, Den- 
bigh Hall, and Blisworth. The Tring 
cutting is an immense chasm across 
the great chalk ridge of Ivinghoe. 
It is two miles and a half long, and 
for a quarter of a mile is fifty-seven 
feet deep. A million and a half 
cubic yards of chalk and earth were 
taken out of this cutting by means 
of horse-runs, and deposited in spoil 
banks ; besides the immense quantity 
run into the embankment north of 
the cutting, forming a solid mound 




nearly six miles long and about thirty feet high. 
Passing over the Denbigh Hall cutting, and the Wol- 
verton embankment of a mile and a half in length 
across the valley of the Ouse, we come to the excavation 
at Blisworth, a brief description of which will give the 
reader an idea of one of the most difficult kinds of 
railwav work. 


The Blisworth Cutting is one of the longest and deepest 

BLISWORTH CCTTING. [By Percival Skelton.] 

grooves ever cut in the solid earth. It is a mile and a 
half long, in some places sixty-five feet deep, passing 
through earth, stiff clay, and hard rock. Not less than 
a million cubic yards of these materials were dug, quar- 
ried, and blasted out of it. One-third of the cutting 
was stone, and beneath the stone lay a thick bed of clay, 
under which were found beds of loose shale so full of 
water that almost constant pumping was necessary at 
many points to enable the works to proceed. For a 
year and a half the contractor went on fruitlessly con- 


lending with these diflieiilties, and ;it length he was 

compelled to abandon the adventure. The engineer 

then took tin- works iii hand lor the Company, :md they 

were Tierorouslv proceeded with. Steam-eneines wen- 

i i 

sel io work to pump oui the water; two locomotives 

were pui on, one at eilher end of the cutting, to drag 

away the excavated rock and clay ; and eight hundred 
men and hoys were employed along the work, in digging, 
wheeling, and blasting, hesides a large numher of horses. 
Some id-i of the extent of the Masting operation- may 
he torn led from the fact that twenty-five barrels of gun- 
powder were exploded weekly ; the total quantity used 
in forming this one cutting being about three thousand 
barrels. Considerable difficulty was experienced in sup- 
porting the bed of rock cut through, which overlaid 
the clay and shale along either side of the cutting. It 
was found necessary to hold it up by strong retaining 
walls, to prevent the clay bed from bulging out, and 
these walls were further supported by a strong invert, - 
that is, an arch placed in an inverted position under the 
road,- -thus binding together the walls on both sides. 
Behind the retaining walls, a drift or horizontal drain 
was provided to enable the water to run off, and occasional 
openings were left in the walls themselves for the same 
purpose. The work was at length brought to a suc- 
cessful completion, but the extraordinary difficulties 
encountered in forming the cutting had the effect 
of greatly increasing the cost of this portion of the 

The tunnels on the line are eight in number, their 
total length being 7336 yards. The first high ground 
encountered was Primrose Hill, where the stiff London 
clay was passed through for a distance of about 1164 
yards. The clay was close, compact, and dry, more 
difficult to work than stone itself. It was entirely free 
from water ; but the absorbing properties of the clay 
were such that when exposed to the air it swelled out 


rapidly. Hence an unusual thickness of brick lining 
was found necessary ; and the engineer afterwards 
informed the author that for some time he entertained, 
an apprehension lest the pressure should force in the 
brickwork altogether, as afterwards happened in the 
case of the short Preston Brook tunnel upon the Grand 
Junction Railway, constructed by his father. He stated 
that the pressure behind the brickwork was such, that it 
made the face of the bricks to fly off in minute chips, 
which covered his clothes whilst he was inspecting the 
work. The materials used in the building were, how- 
ever, of excellent quality ; and the work was happily 
brought to a completion without any accident. 

At Watford the chalk ridge was penetrated by a 
tunnel about 1800 yards long; and at Northchurch, 
Lindslade, and Stowe Hill, there were other tunnels of 
minor extent. But the chief difficulty of the undertaking 
was the execution of that under the Kilsby ridge. 
Though not the largest, this is in many respects one of 
the most interesting works of the kind in this country. 
It is about two thousand four hundred yards long, 
and runs at an average depth of about a hundred and 
sixty feet below the surface. The ridge under which 
it extends is of considerable extent, the famous battle 
of Naseby having been fought upon one of the spurs of 
the same high ground some seven miles to the eastward. 

Previous to the letting of the contract, the character 
of the underground soil was fairly tested by trial shafts, 
which indicated that it consisted of shale of the lower 
oolite, and it was let accordingly. But the works had 
scarcely been commenced when it was discovered that at 
an interval between the two trial-shafts which had been 
sunk about two hundred yards from the south end of 
the tunnel, there existed an extensive quicksand under 
a bed of clay forty feet thick, which the borings had 
escaped in the most singular manner. At the bottom of 
one of these shafts the excavation and building of the 



< IHAP. X\'. 

:E SH-A. . K1LSBY TONNEL. [By Fercival Skeiton.] 

tunnel were proceeding, when the roof at one purl 
-iiddridy gave- way, a deluge of water burst in, and the 
p;irty of workmen with the utmost difficulty escaped 
with their lives. They were only saved by means of a 
raft, on which they were towed by one of the engineers 
swimming with the rope in his mouth to the lower end 
of the shaft, out of which they were safely lifted to tin- 
daylight. The works were of course at that point 
immediately stopped. The contractor, who had under- 
taken the construction of the tunnel, was so overwhelm* d 
by the calamity, that, though he was relieved by the 
Company from his engagement, he took to his bed and 
shortly after died. Pumping-engines were then erected 
for the purpose of draining off the water, but for a long 
time it prevailed, and sometimes even rose in the shaft. 
The question arose, whether in the face of so formidable 
a difficulty, the works should be proceeded with or 
abandoned. Robert Stephenson sent over to Alton 


Grange for his father, and the two took serious counsel 
together. George was in favour of pumping out the 
water from the top by powerful engines erected over 
each shaft, until the water was fairlv mastered. Robert 


concurred in that view, and although other engineers 

o o 

who were consulted pronounced strongly against the 
practicability of the scheme and advised the abandonment 
of the enterprise, the directors authorised him to pro- 
ceed ; and powerful steam-engines were ordered to be 
constructed and delivered without loss of time. 

In the mean time, Robert suggested to his father the 
expediency of running a drift along the heading from 
the south end of the tunnel, with the view of draining 
off the water in that way. George said he thought it 
would scarcely answer, but that it was worth a trial, at 
all events until the pumping-engines were got ready. 
Robert accordingly gave orders for the drift to be pro- 
ceeded with ; and the workmen had nearly reached the 


sand bed, when one day that the engineer, his assistants, 
and the workmen were clustered about its open entrance, 
they heard a sudden roar as of distant th under. It was 
hoped that the water had burst in- -for all the workmen 
were out of the drift, and that the sand bed would now 
drain itself off in a natural way. Instead of which, 
very little water made its appearance ; and on examining 
the inner end of the drift, it was found that the loud 
noise had been caused by the sudden discharge into it of 
an immense mass of sand, which had completely choked 
up the passage, and prevented the water from flowing 

The engineer now found that there was nothing for it 
but sinking numerous additional shafts over the line of 
the tunnel at the points at which it crossed the quick- 
sand, and endeavour in o; to master the water bv sheer 

O i/ 

force of engines and pumps. The engines, when at length 
erected, possessed an aggregate power of 1 60 horses ; 
and they went on pumping for eight successive months, 


rmptving out ;m almost incredible <|n:miity <>f water. 

Il was ((Hind that the water, with which the bed of sand 
extending over many miles \\-;is charged, was 1<> a certain 


degree held hack lv the particles of the sand itself, and 

. i 

that it could only percolate through at a certain average 
rate. It appeared in its flow to take a slanting direction 
t> the suction of the pumps, the angle of inclination 
depending upon the coarseness or fineness of the sand, 
and regulating the time of the flow. Hence the distri- 
bution of the pumping power at short intervals along 
the line of the tunnel had a much greater effect than the 
concentration of that power at any one spot. It soon 
appeared that the water had found its master. Pro- 
tected by the pumps, which cleared a space for engineer- 
I'IILC operations- -in the midst, as it were, of two almost 
perpendicular walls of water and sand on either side- 
the workmen proceeded with the building of the tunnel at 
numerous points. Every exertion was used to wall in the 
dangerous parts as quickly as possible ; the excavators and 
bricklayers labouring night and day until the work was 
finished. Even while under the protection of the im- 
mense pumping power above described, it often happened 
that the bricks were scarcely covered with cement ready 
for the setting, ere they were washed quite clean by the 
streams of water which poured down overhead. The 
men were accordingly under the necessity of holding 
over their work large whisks of straw and other ap- 
pliances to protect the bricks and cement at the moment 
of setting. 

The quantity of water pumped out of the sand bed 
during eight months of incessant pumping, averaged 
two thousand gallons per minute, raised from an average 
depth of 120 feet. It is difficult to form an adequate 
idea of the bulk of the water thus raised, but it may be 
stated that if allowed to flow for three hours only, it 
would fill a lake one acre square to the depth of one 
foot, and if allowed to flow for one entire day it would 


fill the lake to over eight feet in depth, or sufficient to 
float vessels of a hundred tons' burthen. The water 
pumped out of the tunnel while the work was in pro- 
gress would be nearly equivalent to the contents of the 
Thames at high water, between London and AYoolwich. 
It is a curious circumstance, that notwithstanding the 
quantity of water thus removed, the level of the surface 
in the tunnel was only lowered about two and a half to 
three inches per week, proving the vast area of the 
quicksand, which probably extended along the entire 
ridge of land under which the railway passed. 

The cost of the line was greatly increased by these diffi- 
culties encountered at Kilsby. The original estimate for 
the tunnel was only 99,000/. ; but before it was finished 
it had cost more than 100/. per lineal yard forward, or 
a total of nearly 300,000^. The expenditure on the 
other parts of the line also greatly exceeded the amount 
first set down by the engineer ; and before the works 
were finished, it Avas more than doubled. The land cost 
three times more than the estimate ; and the claims for 
compensation were enormous. Although the contracts 
were let within the estimates, very few of the contractors 
were able to complete them without the assistance of 
the Company, and many became bankrupt. Speaking 
of the difficulties encountered during the construction of 
the line, Eobert Stephenson afterwards observed to us :- 
" After the works were let, wages rose, the prices of 
materials of all kinds rose, and the contractors, many of 
whom were men of comparatively small capital, were 
thrown on their beam ends. Their calculations as to 
expenses and profits were completely upset. Let me 
just go over the list. There was Jackson, who took the 
Primrose Hill contract- -he failed. Then there was 
the next length- -Nowells ; then Copeland and Hard- 
ing ; north of them Townsend, who had the Tring 
cutting ; next Stoke Hammond ; then Lyers ; then 
Hughes : I think all of these broke down, or at least 

;;_() r.\u,ri!K <>F o>NTK.\<"r<>i!s. CBAP.XV, 

wove helped ihroiivjh by the directors. Then there was 
that terrihle contrad of tin- Kilshy tunnel, which hroke 
tin.' Nowells, and killed one of them. Tin- contractors 

to tin' north of Kilsby were more fm-limatr, llmu^-li 
SOUK- of tlii'in pulled through only with the greatesl 
difficult v. Of the eighteen contracts in which flic 
line was originally let, only seven were completed l>y 
flic original contractors. Eleven firms were ruined 


lv tlirir contracts, which were relet to others at advanced 
jiriivs, or were carried on and finished by the Company. 
The principal cause of increase in the expense, however, 
was the enlargement of the stations. It appeared that 
we had greatly under-estimated the traffic, and it accord- 
ingly became necessary to spend more and more money 
for its accommodation, until I think I am within the 
mark when I say that the expenditure on this account 
alone exceeded by eiffht or ten fold the amount of the 


Parliamentary estimate." 

The magnitude of the works, which were unpre- 
cedented in England, was one of the most remarkable 
features in the undertaking. The following striking 
comparison has been made between this railway and 
one of the greatest works of ancient times. The Great 
Pyramid of Egypt was, according to Diodorus Siculus, 
constructed by three hundred thousand- -according to 
Herodotus, by one hundred thousand men. It required 
for its execution twenty years, and the labour expended 
upon it has been estimated as equivalent to lifting 
15,733,000,000 of cubic feet of stone one foot hi-h. 
"Whereas, if the labour expended in constructing the 
London and Birmingham Railway be in like manner 
reduced io one common denomination, the result is 
25,000,000,000 of cubic feet more than, was lifted for the 
Great Pyramid ; and yet the English work was per- 
formed bv about 20,000 men in less than five years. 
. / 

And whilst the Egyptian work was executed bv a 

Ot 1 

powerful monarch concentrating upon it the labour and 


capital of a great nation, the English railway was 
constructed, in the face of every conceivable obstruction 
and difficulty, by a company of private individuals out 
of their own resources, without the aid of Government 
or the contribution of one farthing of public money. 

The labourers who executed these formidable works 
were in many respects a remarkable class. The " rail- 
way navvies, 1 as they were called, were men drawn 
by the attraction of good wages from all parts of the 
kingdom ; and they w r ere ready for any sort of hard 
work. Many of the labourers employed on the Liver- 
pool line were Irish ; others were from the Northum- 
berland and Durham railways, w r here they had been 
accustomed to similar work ; and some of the best came 
from the fen districts of Lincoln and Cambridge, where 
they had been trained to execute works of excavation 
and embankment. These old practitioners formed a 
nucleus of skilled manipulation and aptitude, which 
rendered them of indispensable utility in the immense 
undertakings of the period. Their expertness in all sorts 
of earthwork, in embanking, boring, and w r ell-sinking 
-their practical knowledge of the nature of soils and 
rocks, the tenacity of clays, and the porosity of certain 
stratifications - - were very great ; and, rough-looking 
though they were, many of them were as important in 
their own department as the contractor or the engineer. 

During the railway-making period the navvy wan- 
dered about from one public work to another appa- 
rently belonging to no country and having no home. 
He usually wore a white felt hat with the brim turned 
up, a velveteen or jean square-tailed coat, a scarlet plush 
waistcoat with little black spots, and a bright-coloured 
kerchief round his herculean neck, when, as often 

1 The word " navvie," or " naviga- 
tor," is supposed to have originated in 
the fact of many of these labourers 
having been originally employed in 


making the navigations, or canals, the 
construction of which immediately 
preceded the railway era. 


happened, ii was ii"i Id'i miiivlv bare, His rordiin>\ 
breeches were retained in position bv a leathern strap 
round tlicwaiM. and were tied and buttoned ;ii ili< i knee, 
displaying beneath a solid cull' n ml foot encased in strong 
liiu-li-laced boots. .Joinhiir together in ;i "butty pin^-, 
sonic ten or twelve of ilic-c men would take ;i contract 

to cut out ;u id remove so much "dirt"- as they denomi- 

nated earth-cutting- -fixing tlicir price ncconlino- to the 
character of the " stuff," ;md tlic distance to which it liad 
to be wheeled and tipped. The contract taken, every 
man put liimsrlf to ln's mettle: if any w;is found skulk- 
ing, or not putting forth ln's full working power, lie \vas 
ejected from the gang. Tlicir powers of endurance were 
extraordinary. In times of emergency they would work 
for twelve and even sixteen hours, with only short 


intervals for meals. The quantity of flesh-meat which 
they consumed was something enormous; but it was 
to their hones and muscles what coke is to the loco- 
motive- -the means of keeping up the steam. They 
displayed great pluck, and seemed to disregard peril. 
Indeed the most dangerous sort of labour- -such as 
working horse-barrow runs, in which accidents are of 
constant occurrence- -has always been most in request 
amongst them, the danger seeming to be one of its chief 
r ecommendati ons . 

Working together, eating, drinking, and sleeping 
together, and daily exposed to the same influences, these 
railway labourers soon presented a distinct and well- 
defined character, strongly marking them from the 
population of the districts in which they laboured. 
Reckless alike of their lives as of their earnings, the 
navvies worked hard and lived hard. For their lodging, 
a hut of turf would content them ; and, in their hours 
of leisure, the meanest public-house would serve for 
their parlour. Unburdened, as they usually were, by 
domestic ties, unsoftened by family affection, and without 
much moral or religious training, the navvies came to 


be distinguished by a sort of savage manners, which 
contrasted strangely with those of the surrounding popu- 
lation. Yet, ignorant and violent though they might 
be, thev were usually ffood-hearted fellows in the main 

/ i/O 

-frank and open-handed with their comrades, and 
ready to share their last penny with those in distress. 
Their pay-nights were often a saturnalia of riot and 
disorder, dreaded by the inhabitants o Jie villages 
along the line of works. The irruption of such men 
into the quiet hamlet of Kilsby must, indeed, have pro- 
duced a very startling effect on the recluse inhabitants 
of the place. Robert Stephenson used to tell a story of 
the clergyman of the parish waiting upon the foreman 
of one of the gangs to expostulate with him as to the 
shocking impropriety of his men working during Sun- 
day. But the head navvy merely hitched up his trow- 
sers, and said, " Why, Soondays hain't cropt out here 
yet ! ' In short, the navvies were little better than 
heathens, and the village of Kilsby was not restored to 
its wonted quiet until the tunnel-works were finished, 
and the engines and scaffoldings removed, leaving only 
the immense masses of debris around the line of shafts 
which extend along the top of the tunnel. 

In illustration of the extraordinary working energy 
and powers of endurance of the English navvies, we 
may mention that when railway-making extended to 
France, the English contractors for the works took with 
them gangs of English navvies, with the usual plant, 
which included wheelbarrows. These the English navvy 
was accustomed to run out continuously, loaded with 
some three or four hundredweight of stuff, piled so high 
that he could barely see, over the summit of the load, the 
gang-board along which he wheeled his barrow, whereas 
the French navvy was contented with half the weight. 
Indeed, the French navvies on one occasion struck work 
because of the size of the English barrows, and there 
was an emeute on the Rouen Railway, which was 





only quelled l>v the aid of the military. The rouse - 
quence was tliat the hi^ harrows were abandoned to the 

English workmen, who earned nearlv <loul>Ie the wav;es 

' . o 

of the Frenchmen. The manner in wlnrh thev stood to 
their work was matter of irivat surprise and WOnder- 
llielit to the I'Yelirll eol 1 1 1 1 r\ ] >< MI] >|< -. \\ ho rallir r 1'oWi li 1 li:' 

round thfin in their blouses, and. after u-a/iiiLr adniiiiii"'l\- 

' ' * 

at their expert handling of tlie ]iek and mattock, and 

the immense loads of "dirt" which they wheeled out, 

would exclaim to eacli other, " Mon J)'nn m ruila I railii 
ces Anglais, cormne /'/* travaillent! 

/-W^S3 - 

". XT^WV 





WHILE the London and Birmingham Railway was 
under construction, George Stephenson continued to 
reside at Alton Grange. Though he took an active 
interest in the progress of the works, and made frequent 
visits of inspection at the more important points, he 
left the practical part of the business in the hands of 
his son. He was himself fully occupied in laying 
out and constructing numerous lines in the north of 
England, for the purpose of opening up communications 
between the more important towns, as well as between 
them and the metropolis. 

The rapidity with which railways were carried out, 
when the spirit of the country became roused, was indeed 
remarkable. This was doubtless in some measure owing 
to the increased force of the current of speculation at 
the time, but chiefly to the desire which the public began 
to entertain for the general extension of the system. It 
was even proposed to fill up the canals, and convert 
them into railways. The new roads became the topic 
of conversation in all circles ; they were felt to give a 
new value to time ; their vast capabilities for " busi- 
ness' peculiarly recommended them to the trading 
classes ; whilst the friends of " progress ' dilated on 
the great benefits they would eventually confer upon 
mankind at large. It began to be seen that Edward 
Pease had not been exaggerating when he said, " Let 
the country but make the railroads, and the railroads 



( BAP. XVI. 

will make the country! Tli<-v ;ils<> came to be re- 


irarded as inviting objrcN of investmenl to the thrifts. 

;illd ;i sale outlet lor ill' 1 accumulations of inert lin-li of 

capital. Thus new avenues <>f iron road were soon in 
coiirx- of construction in nil directions, branching north, 

south, cast, and \vrst. so that the country promised in a 
wonderfully short spare of time to I <<( m<- wrapped in 
one vast network of iron. 

In ls:;(i tlit' (irand Junction Railway \\as under 
construction lu 'tween Warrington and Birmingliam- -the 
nortlici'ii part by Mr. Stephenson, and the southern by 


Mr. Rastrick. The works on that line were of the 
usual kind- -heavy cuttings, long embankments, and 
numerous viaducts ; but none of these are worthy of 


any special description. Perhaps the finest piece of 
masonry on the railway is the Button Viaduct across 

t/ / 

the valley of the Weaver. It consists of twenty arches 
of 60 feet span, springing 16 feet from the perpendi- 
cular shaft of each pier, and 60 feet in height from 
the crown of the arches to the level of the river. The 
foundations of the piers were built on piles driven 20 


feet deep. The structure has a solid and majestic appear- 
ance, and is perhaps the finest of George Stephenson's 
viaducts. Although designed by him, it was carried 
out by Mr. Locke, on the latter succeeding Mr. Stephen- 
son as engineer to the Grand Junction Railway. 

The Manchester and Leeds line was in progress at 
the same time- -an important railway connecting the 
principal manufacturing towns of Yorkshire and Lanca- 
shire. An attempt was made to obtain the Act as early 
as the year 1831 ; but its promoters were defeated by 
the powerful opposition of the landowners aided by the 
canal companies, and the project was not revived for 
several years. Mr. Stephenson, having carefully exa- 
mined the district, had in his own mind settled the 
proper direction of the line, and decided that no other 
was practicable, without the objectionable expedient of 
a tunnel three and a-half miles in length under Black- 
stone Edge, and the additional disadvantage of bad 
gradients. The line as laid out by him was somewhat 
circuitous, and the works were heavy ; but on the whole 
the gradients were favourable, and it had the advantage 
of passing through a district full of manufacturing 
towns and villages, the teeming hives of population, 
industry, and enterprise. The Act authorising the con- 
struction of the railway was obtained in the session of 
1836; it was greatly amended in the succeeding year, 
and the first ground was broken on the 18th of August, 

An incident occurred while the second Manchester 
and Leeds Bill was before the Committee of the Lords, 
which is worthy of passing notice in this place, as illus- 
trative of George Stephenson's character. The line 
which was authorised by Parliament in 1836 had been 
hastily surveyed within a period of less than six weeks, 
and before it received the royal assent Mr. Stephenson 
became convinced that many important improvements 
might be made in it, and communicated his views to 


tin- directors. The\ determined, however. t<> obtain tin- 


A-i. although conscious ;it tin- lime that they would 
have i" go t<ii- ;i second and improved line in the follow- 
ing: vear. Th- second Hill passed the Commons in ls:;T 


\\itlioiii difficulty, ;in<l wa> expected in hkr manner ! 

receive tin- sam-non ni' the Lords 1 Committee. Quite 
unexpectedly, bowever, Lord Wharncliffe, \\ho was in- 

terested in the Manchester and Shefiield line, which 

passed through liis colliery property in tin- south of 
i / i 

Yorkshire, and conceived that the new Manchester and 
Leeds Jim.- might have some damaging effect upon it, 
appeared as an opponent of the Bill. He was himself a 
meinlxT of the Committee, and adopted the unusual 
course of rising to his feet, and making a set speed i 
against the Bill while Mr. Stephenson was under exa- 
mination. After pointing out that the Bill applied for 
and obtained in tlie preceding session was one that the 
promoters had no intention of carrying out, that they 
had secured it only for the purpose of ohtaimng posses- 
sion of the ground and reducing the number of the 
opponents to their present application, and that in fact 
they had heen practising a deception upon the House, 
his Lordship turned full upon the witness, and, address- 
ing him, said, " I ask you, sir, do you call that conduct 
honest?'' Mr. Stephenson, his voice trembling with emo- 
tion, replied, " Yes, my Lord, I do call it honest. And 
I will ask your Lordship, whom I served for many years 
as your eiiginewright at the Killing worth collieries, did 
you ever know me to do anything that was not strictly 
honourable? You know what the collieries were when 
I went there, and you know what they were when I 
left them. Did you ever hear that I was found wanting 

when honest services were wanted, or when duty called 


me ? Let your Lordship but fairly consider the circum- 
stances of the case, and I feel persuaded you will admit 
that my conduct has been equally honest throughout in 
this matter," He then briefly but clearly stated the 


history of the application to Parliament for the Act, 
which was so satisfactory to the Committee that they 
passed the preamble of the Bill without further objection. 
Lord Wharncliffe requested that the Committee would 
permit his observations, together with Mr. Stephensoii's 
reply, to be erased from the record of the evidence, 
which, as an acknowledgment of his error, was per- 
mitted. Lord Kenvoii and several other members of 


the Committee afterwards came up to Mr. Stephenson, 
shook him by the hand, and congratulated him on the 
manly way in which he had vindicated himself in the 
course of the inquiry. 

In conducting this project to an issue, Mr. Stephenson 
had much opposition and many prejudices to encounter. 
Predictions were confidently made in many quarters 
that the line could never succeed. It was declared that 
the utmost engineering skill could not construct a rail- 
way through such a country of hills and hard rocks ; 
and it was maintained that, even if the railway were 
practicable, it could only be formed at an altogether 
ruinous cost to the proprietors. 

During the progress of the works, as the Summit 
Tunnel, near Littleborough, was approaching comple- 
tion, the rumour was spread abroad in Manchester that 
the tunnel had fallen in and buried a number of the 
workmen. The last arch had been keyed in, and the 
work was all but finished, when the accident occurred 
which was thus exaggerated by the lying tongue of 
rumour. An invert had given way through the irre- 
gular pressure of the surrounding earth and rock at a 
part of the tunnel where a " fault : had occurred in the 
strata. A party of the directors accompanied the engi- 
neer to inspect the scene of the accident. They entered 
the tunnel's mouth preceded by upwards of fifty navvies, 
each bearing a torch. 

After walking a distance of about half a mile, the 
inspecting party arrived at the scene of the " frightful 





[By Percival Skelton.] 

accident," about which so much alarm had been spread. 
All that was visible was a certain unevenness of the 
ground, which had been forced up by the invert under 
it giving way; thus the ballast had been loosened, the 
drain running along the centre of the road had been 
displaced, and small pools of water stood about. But 
the whole of the walls and the roof were still as perfect 
as at any other part of the tunnel. Mr. Stephenson 
explained the cause of the accident: the blur shale, he 
said, through which the excavation passed at that point, 
was considered so hard and firm, as to render it un- 
necessary to build the invert very strong there. But 
shale is always a deceptive material. Subjected to tin- 
influence of the atmosphere, it gives but a treacherous 
support. In this case, falling away like quicklime, it 
had left the lip of the invert alone to support the 
pressure of the arch above, and hence its springing 
inwards and upwards. Mr. Stephenson directed the 


attention of the visitors to the completeness of the arch 
overhead, where not the slightest fracture or yielding 
could be detected. Speaking of the work, in the course 
of the same clay, he said, " I will stake my character, 
my head, if that tunnel ever give way, so as to cause 
danger to any of the public passing through it. Taking 
it as a whole, I don't think there is such another piece 
of work in the world. It is the greatest work that has 
yet been done of this kind, and there has been less 
repairing than is usual,- -though an engineer might 
well be beaten in his calculations, for he cannot before- 
hand see into those little fractured parts of the earth he 
may meet with." As Mr. Stephenson had promised, 
the invert was put in ; and the tunnel was made per- 
fectly safe. 


The construction of this subterranean road employed 
the labour of above a thousand men for nearly four 
years. Besides excavating the arch out of the solid 
rock, they used 23,000,000 of bricks, and 8000 tons of 
Roman cement in the building of the tunnel. Thirteen 
stationary engines, and about 100 horses, were also 
employed in drawing the earth and stone out of the 
shafts. Its entire length is 2869 yards, or nearly a 
mile and three-quarters, exceeding the famous Kilsby 
Tunnel by 471 yards. Mr. T. L. Gooch was the acting 
engineer on the line, and was afterwards promoted, at 
Mr. Stepheiison's recommendation, to the post of joint 
principal engineer, sharing the responsibilities of that 
office with his chief. 

The Midland Railway was a favourite line of Mr. 
Stephenson's for several reasons. It passed through a 
rich mining district, in which it opened up many 
valuable coal-fields, and it formed part of the great 
main line of communication between London and 
Edinburgh. The line was originally projected by 
gentlemen interested in the London and Birmingham 
Railway. Their intention was to extend that line from 
Rugby to Leeds; but, finding themselves anticipated in 



( HAP. XVI, 















tv >---' 

|t;irl hy flu- projection of the 

M !ill;iinl ( 'i iiini ies Railway from 

lillgliy to herliY, lhc\ col | 111 KM | 

i hemselves to t he district between 

Dcrly ;iiid Lcc(U ; mid in 1 s;;;>. n 
( Jompany \v,-is \\ ti-nn-.l to o mst i-nct 
tlic Xurtli Midland line, \\iih 
George Stephenson for its engi- 
neer. Tlie Act \v;is obtained in 

18.')(5, Mini tlic first ground \v;is 


l>rokeii in February, 1S'>7. 

Although the Midland Railway 


was only one of tlie nnuiv u're;i1 
< > 

\v<>rks of the same kind 
at that time, it was almost 
of itself to be tlie achievement of 
a life. Compare it, for example, 
with Napoleon's military road 
over tlie Simplon, and it will at 
once be seen how greatly it excels 
that work, not only in the con- 


structive skill displayed in it, but 
also in its cost and magnitude, 
and the amount of labour em- 
ployed in its formation. The r< >ad 
of the Simplon is 45 miles in 
leno-th ; the North Midland Kail- 
way 7lH miles. Tlie former ha- 

* *' 

50 bridges and 5 tunnels, mea- 
suring together 1338 feet in 
length ; the latter lias 200 bridges 
and 7 tunnels, measuring together 
11,400 feet, or about 2i miles. Tlic 
former cost about 720,000/. ster- 
ling, the latter above 3,000,000^. 
Napoleon's grand military road 
was constructed in six years, at 
the public cost of the two great 


kingdoms of France and Italy ; while Stephenson's 

railway was formed in about three years, by a com- 

t / */ 

pany of private merchants and capitalists out of their 
own funds, and under their own superintendence. 

It is scarcely necessary that we should s;ive any 

t/ t/ v 

account in detail of the North Midland works. The 
making of one tunnel so much resembles the making of 
another, the building of bridges and viaducts, no 
matter how extensive, so much resembles the building 
of others, the cutting out of " dirt," the blasting of 
rocks, and the wheeling of excavation into embank- 
ments, is so much a matter of mere time and hard work, 
-that it is quite unnecessary for us to detain the reader 
by any attempt at their description. Of course there 
were the usual difficulties to encounter and overcome ,- 
but the railway engineer regarded these as mere matters 
of course, and would probably have been disappointed if 
they had not presented themselves, On the Midland, as 
on other lines, water was the great enemy to be fought 
against,- -water in the Clavcross and other tunnels, 


water in the bosrary or sandv foundations of bridges, 

LJ/ t, 

and water in cuttings and embankments. As an illus- 
tration of the difficulties of bridge building, we may 
mention the case of the five arch bridge over the Derwent, 
where it took two years' work, night and day, to get in 
the foundations of the piers alone. Another curious 
illustration of the mischief done by water in cuttings 
may be briefly mentioned. At a part of the North 
Midland Line, near Ambergate, it was necessary to pass 
along a hillside in a cutting a few yards deep. As the 
cutting proceeded, a seam of shale was cut across, lying 
at an inclination of 6 to 1 ; and shortly after, the water 
getting behind the bed of shale, the whole mass of 
earth along the hill above began to move down acr< > 
the line of excavation. The accident completely upset 
the estimates of the contractor, who, instead of fifty 

thousand cubic yards, found that he had about five 


hundred thousand to remove ; the execution of this 





part of the railway occupying fifteen months instead 
of two. 

The Oakenshaw cutting near AVakefield was also of a 
very formidable character. About six hundred thousand 
yards of rock shale and bind were quarried out of it, and 
led to form the adjoining Oakenshaw embankment. 
The Normantoii cutting was almost as heavy, requiring 
the removal of four hundred thousand yards of the 


same kind of excavation into embankment and spoi]. 
But the progress of the works on the line was so rapid in 

1839, that not less than 450,000 cubic yards of excava- 


tion were effected per month. 

As a curiosity in construction, we may also mention 
a very delicate piece of work executed on the same rail- 
way at Bullbridge in Derbyshire, where the line at the 
same point passes over a bridge which here spans the 
river Amber, and under the bed of the Cromford Canal. 
Water, bridge, railway, and canal, were thus piled 
one above the other, four stories high ; such another 






curious complication probably not existing. In order 
to prevent the possibility of the waters of the canal 
breaking in upon the works of the railroad, Mr. 
Stephenson. had an iron tank made, 150 feet long, of the 
width of the canal, and exactly fitting the bottom. It 
was brought to the spot in three pieces, which were 
firmly welded together, and the trough was then floated 
into its place and sunk ; the whole operation being 
completed without in the least interfering with the 
navigation of the canal. The railway works under- 
neath were then proceeded with and finished. 

Another line of the same series, constructed by Mr. 
Stephenson, was the York and North Midland, ex- 
tending from Normanton--a point on the Midland 
Railway- -to York ; but it was a line of easy formation, 
traversing a comparatively level country. The inha- 
bitants of Whitby, as well as York, were busy projecting 
railways as early as 1832 ; and in the year following, 
Whitby succeeded in obtaining a horse line of twenty- 

336 Y<>I;K A\I NH;TH Miiu.AXh. 

four miles. rnnnrrting it with the small market-town <>!' 
Pickering, The York -iii/cns were iimn- ambitious, 
.UK! agitated the question < >!' ;i locomotive line fee-conned 

them \\itli llir (o\\n of Leeds. Ml'. S t e | >1 lei isi >| I reeoin- 

nieii<leil them to conned their line with tl:e Midland ;it 
Normanton, ;m<l they adopted his advice. r rhe ( 1 om- 
]);iny was formed, flic shares were at onee siihseril << I 
t<>r. and Stephenson appointed liis ])iij>il ami assistant. 
Mi-. Swanwick, to lay out the line in October, 18.V>. 
The Act was obtained in the following year, and the 
works were constructed without difficulty. 


As the best proof of his conviction that the York and 
North Midland would prove a good investment, Mr. 
Stephenson invested in it a considerable portion of his 
savings, being a subscriber for 420 shares; and he also 
took some trouble in persuading several wealthy gentle- 
men in London and elsewhere to purchase shares in the 
concern. The interest thus taken in the line by the 
engineer was on more than one occasion specially 
mentioned by Mr. Hudson, then Lord Mayor of York, 
as an inducement to other persons of capital to join the 
undertaking ; and had it not afterwards been encumbered 
and overlaid by comparatively useless, and therefore 
profitless branches, in the projection of which Mr. 
Stephenson had no part, the sanguine expectations 
which he early formed of the paying qualities of that 
railway would have been more than realised. 

There was one branch, however, of the York and 
North Midland Line in which he took an anxious 
interest, and of which he may be pronounced the 
projector- -the branch to Scarborough ; which proved 
to be one of the most profitable parts of the railway. 
He was so satisfied of its value, that, at a meeting of 
the York and North Midland proprietors, he volunteered 
his gratuitous services as engineer until the Company 
was formed, in addition to subscribing largely to the 
undertaking. At that meeting he took an opportunity 


of referring to the charges brought against engineers of 
so greatly exceeding the estimates : " He had had a 
good deal to do with making out the estimate of the 
North Midland Railway, and he believed there never 

ft/ / 

was a more honest one. He had always endeavoured 
to state the truth as far as was in his power. He had 
known a director, who, when he (Mr. Stephenson) had 
sent in an estimate, came forward and said, ' I can do it 
for half the money.' The director's estimate went into 
Parliament, but it came out his. He could go through 
the whole list of the undertakings in which he had been 
engaged, and show that he had never had anything to 
do with stock-jobbing concerns. He would say that he 
would not be concerned in any scheme, unless he was 
satisfied that it would pay the proprietors : and in 
bringing forward the proposed line to Scarborough, he 
was satisfied that it would pay, or he would have had 
nothing to do with it." 

During the time that our engineer was engaged in 
superintending the execution of these great under- 
takings, he was occupied in surveying other lines of 
railway in various parts of the country. With that 
object he visited the neighbourhood of Glasgow, and 
surveyed several lines there ; and he afterwards sur- 
veyed routes along the east coast from Newcastle to 
Edinburgh, with the view of completing the main line 
of communication with London. When out on foot in 
the fields, on these occasions, he was ever foremost in 
the march ; and he delighted to test the prowess of his 
companions by a good jump at any hedge or ditch that 
lay in their way. His companions noted with surprise 
his remarkable quickness of observation. Nothing 
escaped his attention - -the trees, the crops, the birds, 
or the farmer's stock ; and he was usually full of lively 
conversation, everything in nature affording him an 
opportunity for making some striking remark, or pro- 
pounding some ingenious theory. When taking a 



flying survey of a new line. Ins keen observation proved 
very use Ihl i. him. for lie rapidly noted tlie general 

configuration ol'ilie country, and iid'erred its geological 

stnieiure. lie afterwards remarked to a friend, "I 
have planned many a railway travelling al<>n;_r in a 
po>trliaise, and following tlie natural line of tlie 
country." And it was remarkable that his lirst iin- 
pressions of the direction to be taken almost invariably 
proved the right ones; and there are few of the liin-s 
surveyed and recommended by him which have not 
been executed, either during his lifetime or since. As 
an illustration of his quick and shrewd observation on 
such occasions, we may mention that when employed 
to lay out a line to connect Manchester, through Mac- 
clesfield, with the Potteries, the gentleman who accom- 
panied him on the journey of inspection cautioned him 
to provide large accommodation for carrying off the 
water, observing "You must not judge by the appear- 
ance of the brooks ; for after heavy rains these hills 
pour down volumes of water, of which you can have no 
conception." " Pooh ! pooh ! don't I see your bridges ? ' 
replied the engineer. He had noted the details of each 
as he passed along. 

Among the other projects which occupied his attention 
about the same time, were the projected lines between 
Chester and Holyhead, between Leeds and Bradford, 
and between Lancaster and Maryport by the western 
coast. This latter w r as intended to form part of a west- 
coast line to Scotland, Mr. Stephenson favouring it 
partly because of the flatness of the gradients, and also 
because it could be formed at comparatively small cost, 
whilst it would open out a valuable iron-mining district, 
from which a large traffic in ironstone was expected. 
One of its collateral advantages, in the engineer's 
opinion, was, that by forming the railway directly 
across Morecambe Bay, on the north-west coast of 
Lancashire, a large tract of valuable land might be 


reclaimed from the sea, the sale of which would con- 
siderably reduce the cost of the works. He estimated 
that by means of a solid embankment across the bay, 
not less than forty thousand acres of rich alluvial land 
would be gained. His scheme was, to carry the road 
across the ten miles of sands which lie between Poulton, 
near Lancaster, and Humphrey Head on the opposite 
coast, forming the line in a segment of a circle of five 
miles' radius. His plan was to drive in piles across the 
entire length, forming a solid fence of stone blocks on 
the land side for the purpose of retaining the sand and 
silt brought down by the rivers from the interior. The 
embankment would then be raised from time to time as 
the deposit accumulated, until the land was filled up to 
high-water mark ; provision being made, by means of 
sufficient arches, for the flow of the river waters into 
the bay. The execution of the railway after this plan 
would, however, have occupied more years than the 
promoters of the West Coast line were disposed to wait ; 
and eventually Mr. Locke's more direct but uneven line 
by Shap Fell was adopted. A railway has, however, 
since been carried across the head of the bay, in a 
greatly modified form, by the Ulverstone and Lan- 
caster Railway Company ; but it is not improbable that 
Stephenson's larger scheme of reclaiming the vast tract 
of land now left bare at every receding tide, may yet 
be carried out. 

While occupied in carrying out the great railway 
undertakings which we have above so briefly described, 
Mr. Stephenson's home continued, for the greater part 
of the time, to be at Alton Grange, near Leicester. But 
he was so much occupied in travelling about from one 
committee of directors to another one week in England, 
another in Scotland, and probably the next in Ireland, 
-that he often did not see his home for weeks together. 
He had also to make frequent inspections of the various 
important and difficult works in progress, especially 

z 2 


mi the _Mi.ll;unl ;nil M;iii<-hrMT and L'>ds lines; br- 
sidrs <><v;i>inli;illv gning 1" NYwrastlr In 866 ho\v ill* 1 

lncnninii\ \\orks vvriv Lr<iing nn iliciv. Dpring the 
tlnvr vr;ir> ending in ls;>7 pri-haps tin- Inkiest years 

of his life '- -lie travelled 1 > V | x >st 'l 1:1 i - ;d<>ne Upwardfl 
Of tWelitV thousand miles, and \et lint le>s ihall six 

months out of the three years were spent in London. 
Hence there is comparatively little to reeord <>(' Mr. 
Stephenson's ]>riv;itc life at this period; (lnvmir which 
he had scarcely a moment that he could call his own. 

His correspondence increased so much, that he found 
it necessary to engage a private secretary, who accom- 
panied him on his journeys. He was himself exceed- 
ingly averse to writing letters. The comparatively 
advanced age at which he learnt the art of writing, and 
the nature of his duties while engaged at the Killing- 
worth colliery, precluded that facility in correspondence 
which only constant practice can give. He gradually, 
however, acquired great facility in dictation, and had 
also the power of labouring continuously at this, work ; 
the gentleman who acted as his secretary in the year 

<^ / t/ 

1835, having informed us that during his busy season 
he one day dictated not fewer than thirty-seven letters, 

t.' V 

several of them embodying the results of much close 
thinking and calculation. On another occasion, he 
dictated reports and letters for twelve continuous hours, 
until his secretary was ready to drop off his chair from 
sheer exhaustion, and at length he pleaded for a suspen- 
sion of the labour. This great mass of correspondence, 
although closely bearing on the subjects under discussion, 
was not, however, of a kind to supply the biographer 

1 During this period he was en- 
gaged on the North Midland, extending 
from Derhy to Leeds ; the York and 
North Midland, from Normanton to 
York ; the Manchester and Leeds ; 
the Birmingham and Derby, and the 

Sheffield and Rotherharn Railways ; sterling, 
the whole of these, of which he was 

principal engineer, having been au- 
thorised in 1836. In that session 
alone, powers were obtained for the 
construction of 214 miles of new rail- 
ways under his direction, at an ex- 
penditure of upwards of five millions 


with matter for quotation, or to give that insight into 
the life and character of the writer which the letters of 
literary men so often furnish. They were, for the most 
part, letters of mere business, relating to works in 
progress, parliamentary contests, new surveys, estimates 
of cost, and railway policy,- -curt, and to the point; in 
short, the letters of a man every moment of whose time 
was precious. He was also frequently called upon to 
inspect and report upon colliery works, salt works, brass 
and copper works, and such like, in addition to his own 
colliery and railway business. He usually staked out 
himself the lines laid out by him, which involved a 
good deal of labour since undertaken by assistants. 
And occasionally he would run up to London, attending 
in person to the preparation and deposit of the plans 
and sections of the projected undertakings for which he 
was engaged as engineer. 

Fortunately Mr. Stephenson possessed a facility of 
sleeping, which enabled him to pass through this 
enormous amount of fatigue and labour without injury 
to his health. He had been trained in a hard school, 
and could bear with ease conditions which, to men more 
softly nurtured, would have been the extreme of physical 
discomfort. Many, many nights he snatched his sleep 
w] die travelling in his chaise ; and at break of day he 
would be at work, surveying until dark, and this for 
weeks in succession. His w r hole powers seemed to be 
under the control of his will, for he could wake at any 
hour, and go to work at once. It was difficult for 
secretaries and assistants to keep up with such a man. 

It is pleasant to record that in the midst of these 
engrossing occupations, his heart remained as soft and 
loving as ever. In spring-time he would not be 
debarred of his boyish pursuit of bird-nesting ; but 
would go rambling along the hedges spying for nests. 
In the autumn he went nutting, and when he could 
snatch a few minutes he indulged in his old love of 


gardening. His uniform kindness and good temper, 
and his communicative, intelligenl disposition, made 
liim n "Tnii favourite with the neighbouring farmers, 

(^ ( i / 

to whom lie would volunteer inueh valuable adviee 011 

agricultural operations, drainage, ploughing, and labour- 
saving processes. Sometimes he took- ;i long rural ride 
on his favourite " I>obbv, ' now irrowinu- old. hut as fond 

of his muster as ever. Towards the end of his life, 
P>ohhv lived in clover, its master's pet, doing no 
work ; and lie died at Tapton in 1845, more than twenty 
years old. 

During one of George's brief sojourns at the Grange, 
he found time to write to his son a touching account of 
a pair of robins that had built their nest within one of 
the empty upper chambers of the house. One day he 
observed a robin fluttering outside the windows, and 
beating its wings against the panes, as if eager to gain 
admission. He went up stairs, and there found, in a 
retired part of one of the rooms, a robin's nest, with one 
of the parent birds sitting over three or four young- 
all dead. The excluded bird outside still beat against 
the panes ; and on the window being let down, it flew 
into the room, but was so exhausted that it dropped 
upon the floor. Mr. Stephenson took up the bird, 
carried it down stairs, and had it warmed and fed. The 
poor robin revived, and for a time was one of his pets. 
But it shortly died too, as if unable to recover from the 


privations it had endured during its three days' fluttering 
and beating at the windows. It appeared that the room 
had been unoccupied, and, the sash having been let 
down, the robins had taken the opportunity of building 
their nest within it ; but the servant having closed the 
window again, the calamity befel the birds which so 
strongly excited Mr. Stephenson's sympathies. An in- 
cident such as this, trifling though it may seem, gives a 
true key to the heart of the man. 

The amount of his Parliamentary business having 


greatly increased with the projection of new lines of 
railway, Mr. Stephenson found it necessary to set up an 
office in London in 1836. His first office was at No. 9, 
Duke-street, Westminster, from whence he removed in 
the following year to 30^-, Great George-street. That 
office was the busy scene of railway politics for several 
years. There consultations were held, schemes were 


matured, deputations were received, and many pro- 
jectors called upon our engineer for the purpose of 
submitting to him their plans of railways and railway 
working. His private secretary at the time has in- 
formed us that at the end of the first Parliamentary 
session in which he had been engaged as engineer 
for more companies than one, it became necessary 
for him to give instructions as to the preparation 
of the accounts to be rendered to the respective com- 
panies. In the simplicity of his heart, he directed Mr. 
Biiins to take his full time at the rate of ten guineas 
a day, and charge the railway companies in the pro- 
portion in which he had been actually employed in their 
respective business during each day. "When Robert 
heard of this instruction, he went directly to his father 
and expostulated with him against this unprofessional 
course ; and, other influences being brought to bear 
upon him, George at length reluctantly consented to 
charge as other engineers did, an entire day's fee to 
each of the Companies for which he was concerned 
whilst their business was going forward ; but he cut 
down the number of days charged for, and reduced the 
daily amount from ten to seven guineas. 

Besides his journeys at home, Mr. Stephenson was on 
more than one occasion called abroad on railwav busi- 


ness. Thus, at the desire of King Leopold, he made 
several visits to Belgium to assist the Belgian engineers 
in laying out the national lines of that kingdom. That 
enlightened monarch at an early period discerned the 
powerful instrumentality of railways in developing a 

344 KINti I.Kni-ni.irs RAILWAYS. CHAP. XVL 

countrv's resources, and he determined at the earliest 


possible period to adopt them as the great bigh-roads of 
tlie nation. 'The countrv, benur rich in coal and minerals, 


had great manufacturing capabilities. It had good ports, 

line navigable rivers, abundant canals, and a teeming, 

industrious population. Leopold perceived that railways 
were eminently calculated to bring the industry of the 

coimtrv into full play, and to render the riches of the 
provinces available to the rest of the kingdom. He 
therefore openly declared himself the promoter of public 
railways throughout Belgium. A system of lines was 
projected, at his instance, connecting Brussels with the 
chief towns and cities of the kingdom ; extending from 
Ostend eastward to the Prussian frontier, and from 
Antwerp southward to the French frontier. 

Mr. Stephenson and his son, the leading railway- 
engineers of England, were consulted by the King on 
the best mode of carrying out his important plans, as 
early as 1835. In the course of that year they visited 
Belgium, and had several interesting conferences with 
Leopold and his ministers on the subject of the proposed 
railways. The King then appointed George Stephenson 
by royal ordinance a Knight of the Order of Leopold. 
At the invitation of the monarch, Mr. Stephenson made 
a second visit to Belgium, in 1837, on the occasion of 
the public opening of the line from. Brussels to Ghent. 
At Brussels there was a public procession, and another 
at Ghent on the arrival of the train. Stephenson and 
his party accompanied it to the Public Hall, there to 
dine with the chief Ministers of State, the municipal 
authorities, and about five hundred of the principal 
inhabitants of the city ; the English Ambassador being 
also present. After the King's health and a few others 
had been drunk, that of Mr. Stephenson was proposed ; 
on which the whole assembly rose up, amidst great 
excitement and loud applause, and made their way to 
where he sat, in order to jingle glasses with him, greatly 


to liis own amazement. On the clay following, our 
engineer dined with the King and Queen at their 
own table at La a ken, by special invitation ; afterwards 
accompanying his Majesty and suite to a public ball 
given by the municipality of Brussels, in honour of the 
opening of the line to Ghent, as well as of their distin- 
guished English guest. On entering the room, the 
general and excited inquiry was, " Which is Stephen- 
son ? ' The English engineer had not before imagined 
that he was esteemed to be so great a man. 

The London and Birmingham Railway having been 
completed in September, 1838, after being about five 
years in progress, the great main system of railway com- 
munication between London, Liverpool, and Manchester 
was then opened to the public. For some months pre- 
viously, the line had been partially opened, coaches 
performing the journey between Denbigh Hall (near 
Wolverton) and Rugby- -the works of the Kilsby tunnel 
being still incomplete. It was already amusing to hear 
the complaints of the travellers about the slowness of 
the coaches as compared with the railway, though the 
coaches travelled at a speed of eleven miles an hour. 
The comparison of comfort was also greatly to the dis- 
paragement of the coaches. Then the railway train 
could accommodate any quantity, whilst the road con- 
veyances were limited ; and when a press of travellers 
occurred- -as on the occasion of the Queen's coronation 
-the greatest inconvenience was experienced, and as 
much as 10/. was paid for a seat on a donkey-chaise 
between Rugby and Denbigh. On the opening of the 
railway throughout, of course all this inconvenience and 
delav was brought to an end. 

/ o 

Numerous other openings of railways constructed by 
Mr. Stephenson took place about the same time. The 
Birmingham and Derby line was opened for traffic 
in August, 1839 ; the Sheffield and Rotherhani in 
November, 1839 ; and in the course of the following 


year, the Midland, the York and North Midland, the 

CheMer ;md Crewe, the rheMer ;md Birkenhead, the 

Manchester and Binninffham, tin- Manchester and Leeds, 

i ' 

and the Maryport ;uid (Carlisle railways, were all pub- 
licly opened in whole or in part. Tims :\'2\ miles of 
railway (exclusive of the London and Birmingham) 
constructed under Mr. Stephenson's superintendence, at 
a cost of upwards of eleven millions sterling, were, in 
the course of about two years, added to the traffic 
accommodation of the country. 

The ceremonies which accompanied the public opening 
of these lines were often of an interesting character. 
The adjoining population held general holiday ; bands 
played, banners waved, and assembled thousands cheered 
the passing trains amidst the occasional booming of 
cannon. The proceedings were usually" wound up by a 
public dinner ; and in the course of his speech which 
followed, Mr. Stephenson would revert to his favourite 
topic- -the difficulties which he had early encountered 
in the promotion of the railway system, and in esta- 
blishing the superiority of the locomotive. On such 
occasions, Mr. Stephenson always took great pleasure 
in alluding to the services rendered to himself and the 
public by the young men brought up under his eye 
-his pupils at first, and afterwards his assistants. No 
great master ever possessed a more devoted band of 
assistants and fellow-workers than he did. And, indeed, 
it was one of the most marked evidences of his own 
admirable tact and judgment that he selected, with such 
undeviating correctness, the men best fitted to carry out 
his plans. For, the ability to accomplish great things, 
to carry grand ideas into practical effect, depends in no 
small measure on an intuitive knowledge of character, 
Avhich Mr. Stephenson possessed in a remarkable 
degree. Thus, on the Liverpool and Manchester line, 
he secured the able services of Messrs. Yignolles and 
Locke ; the latter having been his pupil, and laid down 


for him several coal-lines in the North. John Dixoii, 
trained by him on the Stockton and Darlington Rail- 
way, afterwards carried out his views on the Can- 
terbury and Whitstable, the Liverpool and Manchester, 
and the Chester railways. Thomas L. Goocli was his 
representative in superintending the execution of the 
formidable works of the Manchester and Leeds line. 
Swan wick on the North Midland, Birkenshaw on the 
Birmingham and Derby, and Cabrey on the York and 
North Midland, seconded him well and ably, and esta- 
blished their own reputation while they increased the 
engineering fame of their master. All these men, then 
comparatively young, became, in course of time, engi- 
neers of distinction, and were employed to conduct on 
their own account numerous railway enterprises of great 

At the dinner at York, which followed the partial 
opening of the York and North Midland Railway, Mr. 
Stephenson said, "he was sure they would appreciate 
his feelings when he told them, that when he first 
began railway business, his hair was black, although 
it was now grey ; and that he began his life's labour 
as but a poor ploughboy. About thirty years since, he 
had applied himself to the study of how to generate 
high velocities by mechanical means. He thought he 
had solved that problem ; and they had for themselves 
seen, that day, what perseverance had brought him 
to. He was, on that occasion, only too happy to 
have an opportunity of acknowledging that he had, 
in the latter portion of his career, received much most 
valuable assistance, particularly from young men 
brought up in his manufactory. Whenever talent 
showed itself in a young man, he had always given 
that talent encouragement where he could, and he 
would continue to do so." 

That this was 110 exaggerated statement is amply 


|>n>Yr<l 1V lliallY filds which ft < 1< >! 1 1 H 1 In Ml 1 . St < ') 'I H '1 1- 

son"> credit, lie \\;i> im ni'j'Lra rd of encouragemenl ;m<l 

praise- when In- MIW honest industry strufffflinff lor a 


looting. Many were the young men whom, in the 
course <>l his n-eful career, In- took l>\- the hand and led 


Meadilv uj to honour and emolument, simply because 

In- had noted tlirir /eal, diligence, and integrity. One 

Youth excited his inteie-i \\-liile working as a common 

carpenter on the Liverpool and Manchester line; and 
lu't'oiv many yea IN had pas-ed. lie was recognised as an 
engineer of distinction. .Vnotlier young man he found 
industriously workiim* awav at liis bye-hours, and, ad- 

i V 

miring his diligence, engaged him for his private secre- 
tary, the gentleman shortly after rising to a position of 
eminent influence and usefulness. Indeed, nothing gave 
Mr. Stephenson greater pleasure than in this way to 
help on any deserving youth who came under his 
observation, and, in his own expressive phrase, to 
"make a man of him." 

The openings of the great main lines of railroad 
communication shortly proved the fallaciousness of the 
numerous rash prophecies which had been promulgated 
l>y the opponents of railways. The proprietors of the 
canals were astounded by the fact that, notwithstanding 
the immense traffic conveyed by rail, their own traffic 
and receipts continued to increase ; and that, in common 
with other interests, they fully shared in the expansion 
of trade and commerce which had been so effectually 
promoted by the extension of the railway system. The 
cattle-owners were equally amazed to find the price of 
horse-flesh increasing with the extension of railways, 
and that the number of coaches running to and from 
the new railway-stations gave employment to a greater 
number of horses than under the old stage-coach system. 
Those wdio had prophesied the decay of the metropolis, 
and the ruin of the suburban cabbage-growers, in conse- 




quence of the approach of railways to London, 1 were 
also disappointed ; for, while the new roads let citizens 
out of London, -they let country-people in. Their action, 
in this respect, was centripetal as well as centrifugal. 
Tens of thousands who had never seen the metropolis 
could now visit it expedition sly and cheaply ; and Lon- 
doners who had never visited the country, or but rarely, 
were enabled, at little cost of time or money, to see 
green fields and clear blue skies, far from the smoke 
and bustle of town. If the dear suburban-grown cab- 
bages became depreciated in value, there were truck- 
loads of fresh-grown country cabbages to make amends 
for the loss : in this case, the " partial evil ' was a far 
more general good. The food of the metropolis became 
rapidly improved, especially in the supply of wholesome 
meat and vegetables. And then the price of coals an 
article which, in this country, is as indispensable as 
daily food to all classes- -was greatly reduced. AVhat a 
blessing to the metropolitan poor is described in this 
single fact ! 

The prophecies of ruin and disaster to landlords and 
farmers were equally confounded by the openings of the 
railways. The agricultural communications, so far from 

1 When the first railways were 
opened in the immediate neighbour- 
hood of the metropolis, they were na- 
turally regarded with great curiosity, 
and crowds nocked to see them. The 
Greenwich Railway was opened in 
1836, and was for some time one of 
the principal shows of London. When 
the first locomotive was ran upon it, a 
large sum was taken for admissions of 
persons to witness the sight. Half-a- 
guinea was charged for reserved seats. 
When the passenger-trains began to 
run, a regular band of musicians was 
engaged to play in front of the station 
to attract customers. The line was 
also used as a show-ground for new 
inventions a singular machine of 

Lord Dundonald's, called the Scor- 
pion, 86 feet long, having for some 
time been a principal attraction. It 
seems to have been apprehended that 
the engines would be apt to run off 
the line at night, unless they had the 
advantage of lights to enable them to 
see their way; and lamps were ac- 
cordingly placed at intervals of 88 
yards along the entire railway. When 
railways ceased to be a novelty the 
Greenwich Company paid off their 
band, took down their lamps, and de- 
voted themselves to the conveyance of 
the regular traffic, which soon became 
quite as large as they could conve- 
niently manage. 


bein <r "destroyed,' as had been predicted, were nu- 

. ' . 

iiieii>elv improved. The farmer-, were enabled t> buy 

their coals, lime. ;iiil manure for less money, while 

they obtained ; readier access to the \"->\ markets lor 
their stock mid farm-produce. Notwithstanding the 

predictions to tin- contrary, their cows gave milk :is 
before, tlicir sheep fed and fattened, mid even skittish 
horses ceased to shy ;il the passing locomotive. The 
smoke of the engines li<l not ohscure tlic sky, nor 
were farmyards burnt up hy the fire thrown IVoni the 
loci .motive-. The fanning classes were not reduced t<> 
1 legga ry ; on the contrary, they soon felt that, so far 
from having any tiling to dread, they had very much 
good to expect from the extension of railways. 

Landlords also found that they could get higher rents 
for farms situated near a railway than at a distance 
from one. Hence they became clamorous for " sidings." 
They felt it to be a grievance to be placed at a distance 
from a station. After a railway had been once opened, 
not a landlord would consent to have the line taken 
from him. Owners who had fought the promoters be- 
fore Parliament, and compelled them to pass their 
domains at a distance, at a vastly-increased expense 
in tunnels and deviations, now petitioned for branches 
and nearer station accommodation. Those who held 
property near towns, and had extorted large sums as 
compensation for the anticipated deterioration in the 
value of their building land, found a new demand for 
it springing up at greatly advanced prices. Land was 
now advertised for sale, with the attraction of being 
" near a railway station.' 


The prediction that, even if railways were made, the 
public would not use them, was also completely falsified 
by the results. The ordinary mode of fast travelling 
for the middle classes had heretofore been by mail-coach 
and stage-coach. Those who could not afford to pay 


the high prices charged for such conveyances went by 
waggon, and the poorer classes trudged on foot. George 
Stephenson was wont to say that he hoped to see the 
day when it would be cheaper for a poor man to travel 
by railway than to walk, and not many years passed be- 
fore his expectation was fulfilled. In no country in the 
world is time worth more money than in England ; and 
by saving time- -the criterion of distance- -the railway 
proved a great benefactor to men of industry in all classes. 
Many deplored the inevitable downfall of the old 
stage-coach system. There was to be an end of that 
delightful variety of incident usually attendant on a 
journey by road. The rapid scamper across a fine 
country on the outside of the four-horse " Express," or 
" Highflyer ;" the seat on the box beside Jehu, or the 
equally coveted place near the facetious guard behind ; 
the journey amid open green fields, through smiling 
villages and fine old towns, where the stage stopped to 
change horses and the passengers to dine- -was all very 
delightful in its w^ay ; and many regretted that this old- 
fashioned and pleasant style of travelling was about to 
pass away. But it had its dark side also. Any one 
who remembers the journey by stage from London to 
Manchester or York, will associate it with recollections 
and sensations of not unmixed delight. To be perched 
for twenty hours, exposed to all weathers, on the outside 
of a coach, trying in vain to find a soft seat sitting 
now with the face to the wind, rain, or sun, and now 
with the back- -without any shelter such as the com- 
monest penny-a-mile parliamentary train now daily 
provides- -was a miserable undertaking, looked forward 
to with horror by many whose business required them 
to travel frequently between the provinces and the 
metropolis. Nor were the inside passengers more agree- 
ably accommodated. To be closely packed up in a little, 
inconvenient, straight-backed vehicle, where the cramped 
limbs could not be in the least extended, nor the wearied 


frame indulge in ;m\ change of posture, was felt by 

lliallV to lir II terrible tllillLl'. Then there Were the (Mill- 


standv-recurrine demands, not alwavs couched in the 

* < 

|Mlii->i terms, for an allowance in ihe driver every two 
or three stages, ami t<> the guard every six or eight; 

and if llir gratuity did not (Mjual their expectations, 
growling and open abuse were not unusual. These 
disagrtmenS) tovvther with the exactions practised on 
travellers by innkeepers, seriously detracted from the 
romance of stage-coach travelling, and there was a 
vvneral disposition on the part of the public to change 
the system for a better. 

The extent to which the new passenger railways 
w r ere at once made use of proved that this better system 
had been discovered. Notwithstanding the reduction 
of the coach fares on many of the roads to one-third 
of their previous rate, people preferred travelling by 
the railway. They saved in time ; and they saved in 
money, taking the whole expenses into account. In 
point of comfort there could be no doubt as to the 
infinite superiority of the railway carriage. But there 
remained the question of safety, which had been a great 
bugbear with the early opponents of railways, and was 
made the most of by the coach-proprietors to deter tra- 
vellers from using them. It was predicted that trains of 
passengers would be blown to pieces, and that none but 
fools would entrust their persons to the conduct of an 
explosive machine such as the locomotive. It appeared, 
however, that during the first eight years not fewer 
than five millions of passengers had been conveyed 
along the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and of 
this vast number only two persons had lost their lives 
by accident. During the same period, the loss of life 
by the upsetting of stage-coaches had been immensely 
greater in proportion. The public were not slow, there- 
fore, to detect the fact that travelling by railways was 
greatly safer than travelling by common road ; and in 


all districts penetrated by railways the coaches were 
very shortly taken off for want of support. 

George Stephenson himself had a narrow escape in 

one of the stage-coach accidents so common twenty vears 

/ t/ 

ago, but which are already almost forgotten. While 
the Birmingham line was under construction, he had 
occasion to travel from Ashby-de-la-Zouch to London 
by coach. He was an inside passenger with an elderly 
lady, and the out sides were pretty numerous. When 
within ten miles of Dunstable, he felt, from the rolling 
of the coach, that one of the linchpins securing the 
wheels had given way, and that the vehicle must upset. 
He endeavoured to fix himself in his seat, holding on 
firmly by the arm-straps, so that he might save him- 
self on whichever side the coach fell. It soon toppled 
over, and fell crash upon the road, amidst the shrieks of 
his fellow-passengers and the smashing of glass. He 
immediately pulled himself up by the arm-strap above 
him, let down the coach window, and climbed out. The 
coachman and passengers lay scattered about on the 
road, stunned, and some of them bleeding, while the 
horses were plunging in their harness. Taking out his 
pocket-knife, he at once cut the traces, and set the 
horses free. He then went to the help of the passen- 
gers, who were all more or less hurt. The guard had 
his arm broken, and the driver was seriously cut and 
contused. A scream, from one of his fellow-passenger 
" insides ' here attracted his attention : it proceeded 
from the elderly lady, whom he had before observed to 
be decorated with one of the enormous bonnets in 
fashion at the time. Opening the coach-door, he lifted 
the lady out, and her principal lamentation was that her 
large bonnet had been crushed beyond remedy ! Mr. 
Stephenson then proceeded to the nearest village for 
help, and saw the passengers provided with proper 
assistance before he himself went forward on his 

VOL. III. 2 A 


Ii was soim- nine before tin 1 mon- opulenl classes, 

who i-Mtlld allol'd to jl li IciWII ||| ; | n st < ( I'll 1 i ( Style, 

became ivoim-drd i<> railway travelling. The old fami- 
lies did not rdisli ilir ulrn of hi-iM'_r conveyed in :i Irani 


of passengers f ;ill ranl<^ ;unl conditions, in which ili< i 
shopkeeper and iln- peasant were carried along ;it ilif 

sunn- sprrd iis tlir duke and the baron- thr onl\ dil- 
ference bring in prm-. Ii was another deplorahle illus- 
t I-.M tii >i i of thr levelling tendencies <f the age. 1 Ii put 
;ui end to flint gradation of rank in travelling which 
was one >t' the le\\- things left l>y which the nobleman 

could le distinguished from tlie Manchester manufac- 

tllVel' Mild liMLl'illMn. I>llt 1o YOllllpT SOUS of liolile illllli- 

lies the convenience and cheapness of the railway did 
not fail to recommend itself. One of these, whose eld->i 
l>rother had just succeeded to an earldom, said one day 
to a railway manager: "I like railways thcv just suit 

* */ * ' 

vouni: 1 I'd lows like me with 'nothing ])er annum ]>aid 
^i"ou know, we can't afford to post, and it 
to In- deuced annoying to me, as I was jo^-in^- 
along on the box-seat of the stage-coach, to see the little 
Karl go by drawn by his four posters, and just look up 
at me and give me a nod. But now, with railways, it's 
different. It's true, he may take a first-class ticket, 
while I can only afford a second-class one, but ire both 
</<> the same pace T 

For a time, however, many of the old families -sent 
forward their servants and luggage by railroad, and 

1 At a meeting ol the Chesterfield sell. Sir Humphry Davy was once 
Mechanics' Institute, at which Mr. similarly characterised; but the re- 
mark was somewhat differently appre- 
ciated. \\ hen travelling on the C'on- 

StephensoD Avas present, one of the 
speakers said of him, "Known as he 

is wherever steam and iron have opened tinent, a distinguished person about a 

the swift lines of communication to foreign Court inquired who and what 

"iir countrymen, and regarded by all he was, never having heard of his 

as the Father of Hail ways, he might Auntie fame. Upon being told that 

be called, in the most honourable his discoveries had " revolutionised 

acceptation of the term, ///< ///*/ <>,/>/ '//,</ /*,'/?/," the courtier promptly re- 

greatest leveller <>f !],< age" Mr. Ste- plied, "1 hate all revolutionists; his 

presence will not be acceptable here.'' 

phenSOn joined heartily iii the 
which followed this description of him- 


condemned themselves to jog along the old highway in 
the accustomed family chariot, dragged by country post- 
horses. But the superior comfort of the railway shortly 
recommended itself to even the oldest families ; posting- 
went out of date ; post-horses were with difficulty to be 
had along even the great high-roads ; and nobles and 
servants, manufacturers and peasants, alike shared in 
the comfort, the convenience, and the despatch of rail- 
way travelling. The late Dr. Arnold, of Kugby, re- 
garded the opening of the London and Birmingham line 
as another great step accomplished in the march of 
civilisation. " I rejoice to see it," he said, as he stood 
on one of the bridges over the railway, and watched the 
train flashing along under him, and away through the 
distant hedgerows " I rejoice to see it, and to think 
that feudality is gone for ever : it is so great a blessing 
to think that any one evil is really extinct." 

It was long before the late Duke of Wellington would 
trust himself behind a locomotive. The fatal accident 
to Mr. Huskisson, which had happened before his eyes, 
contributed to prejudice him strongly against railways, 
and it was not until the year 1843 that he performed 
his first trip on the South- Western Railway, in attend- 
ance upon her Majesty. Prince Albert had for some 
time been accustomed to travel by railway alone, but in 
1842 the Queen began to make use of the same mode 
of conveyance between Windsor and London. Even 


Colonel Sibthorpe was eventually compelled to acknow- 
ledge its utility. For a time he continued to post to 
and from the country as before. Then he compromised 
the matter by taking a railway ticket for the long 
journey, and posting only for a stage or two nearest 
town ; until, at length, he undisguisedly committed him- 
self, like other people, to the express train, and per- 
formed the journey throughout upon what he had 
formerly denounced as " the infernal railroad." 

2 A 2 




AVuiLE Mr. Stephenson was engaged in carrying on the 
works of the Midland Railway in the neighbourhood of 
Chesterfield, several seams of coal were cut through in 
the Clavcross Tunnel, and it occurred to him that if 


mines were opened out there, the railway would provide 
the means of a ready sale for the article in the midland 


counties, and as far south as even the metropolis itself. 

At a time when everybody else was sceptical as to the 
possibility of coals being carried from the midland coun- 
ties to London, and sold there at a price to compete with 
those which were seaborne, he declared his firm convic- 
tion that the time was fast approaching when the London 


market would be regularly supplied with north-country 
coals led by railway. One of the greatest advantages of 

/ / c_3 

railways, in his opinion, was that they would bring iron 
and coal, the staple products of the country, to the doors 
of all England. " The strength of Britain," he would say, 
" lies in her iron and coal beds ; and the locomotive is des- 
tined, above all other agencies, to bring it forth. The Lord 
Chancellor now sits upon a bag of wool ; but wool has 
long ceased to be emblematical of the staple commodity 
of England. He ought rather to sit upon a bag of coals, 
though it might not prove quite so comfortable a seat. 
Then think of the Lord Chancellor being addressed as 
the noble and learned lord on the coal-sack ! I am afraid 
it wouldn't answer, after all." 

To one gentleman he said : " We want from the coal- 
mining, the iron-producing and manufacturing districts, 
a great railway for the carriage of these valuable 
products. AVe want, if I may so say, a stream of steam 
running directly through the country, from the North 
to London, and from other similar districts to London. 
Speed is not so much an object as utility and cheapness. 
It will not do to mix up the heavy merchandize and 
coal trains with the passenger trains. Coal and most 
kinds of goods can wait ; but passengers will not. A 
less perfect road and less expensive works will do well 
enough for coal trains, if run at a low speed ; and if the 
line be flat, it is not of much consequence whether it be 
direct or not. Whenever you put passenger trains on a 
line, all the other trains must be run at high speeds to 
keep out of their way. But coal trains run at high 
speeds pull the road to pieces, besides causing large 
expenditure in locomotive power ; and I doubt very 
much whether they will pay after all ; but a succession 
of long coal trains, if run at from ten to fourteen miles 
an hour, would pay very well. Thus the Stockton and 
Darlington Company made a larger profit when running 
coal at low speeds at a halfpenny a ton per mile, than 



they haye been aMr In <!' since tliry pill nil their 

passen<>vr trains, when everything must nerds l>o run 

faster,and ;i much larger proportion of the gross receipts 

i- alix-rhed by Working expenses." 

Fn ad y< >eatinu- these views, Mr. Stephenson was 

MiisideraMv ahead nt' his lime; and jdihongh hr did 
not live in sec liis anticipations fully realised ;is i< 
tlie sin])lv of ill* 1 London coal-market, lie was never- 
theless the lirst to point out, and to some extent t< 
prove, tin- practicability of establishing ;i profitable e<>al 
trade by railway between, the northern counties ;md tlie 
metropolis. So long, however, as the traffic was con- 
ducted on main passenger lines at comparatively high 
speeds, it was found that the expenditure on tear and 
wear of road and locomotive power,- -not to mention the 
increased, risk of carrying on the first-class passenger 
ti'affic with which it was mixed up;- -necessarily left a 
very small margin of profit; and hence Mr. Stephenson 
was in the habit of urging the propriety of constructing 
a railway which should be exclusively devoted to goods 
and mineral traffic run at low speeds as the only condi- 
tion on which a large railway traffic of that sort could 
be profitably conducted. 1 

Having induced some of his Liverpool friends to join 
him in a coal-mining adventure at Chesterfield, a least- 
was taken of the Clay cross estate, then for sale, and 
operations were shortly after begun. At a subsequent 
period Mr. Stephenson extended his coal -mining 
operations in the same neighbourhood; and in 1841 he 
himself entered into a contract with owners of land in 
the townships of Tapton, Brimington, and Newbold, for 
the working of the coal thereunder ; and pits were 
opened on the Tapton estate on an extensive scale. 

1 A railway of this description has 
recently been projected from Askern, 
in Yorkshire, to March, in Cambridge- 
shire, where it falls into the Eastern 

Counties Railway, to be devoted 
mainly to coal traffic, thus carrying out 
to a great extent George Stephenson's 
favourite idea. 

CHAP. XV 1 1. 



About the same time lie erected great lime-works, close 
to the Amber^ate station of the Midland Railway, from 

o y 

which, when in full operation, he was able to turn out 
upwards of two hundred tons a day. The limestone 
was brought on a tramway from the village of Crich, 
about two or three miles distant from the kilns, the coal 
with which to burn it being supplied from his adjoining 
Clay cross colliery. The works were on a scale such 
as had not before been attempted by any private 
individual engaged in a similar trade ; and we believe 
they proved very successful. 

WORKS AT AMBERGATE. [By Percival Skelton.] 

Tapton. House was included in the lease of one of the 
collieries, and as it was conveniently situated- -being, as 
it were, a central point on the Midland Railway, from 
which he could readily proceed north or south, on his 
journeys of inspection of the various lines then under 
construction in the midland and northern counties,- 
he took up his residence there, and it continued his 
home until the close of his life. 

Tapton. House is a large roomy brick mansion, 
beautifully situated amidst woods, upon a commanding 


eminence, ;il">ut ;i mile 1> tlir nirtli-cM>t !' lln- t<>\vn of 

Chesterfield, (liven lield< dotted \\-iili line tn-cs slope 
M\VMY from tlic lion^e in nil directions. Tin- surrounding 
coimtrv is undulating and highly picturesque. North 

;iinl south tin 1 eye ranges over a. vast extent of lovelv 

< f 

scenery; and on the west, looking over tin- town of 

Chesterfield, with its church and crooked spire, tip' 
extensive range of the Derbyshire hills hounds the 
distance. Tin- Midland Railway skirts the western <-dire 

of the park in a deep rock cutting, and the shrill whistle 
of the locomotive sounds near at hand as the trains 
speed past. The gardens and pleasure-grounds adjoining 
the house were in a very neglected state when ^Ir. 
Stephenson first went to Tapton ; and he promised 
himself, when he had secured rest and leisure from 
business, that he would put a new face upon both. The 
first improvement he made was cutting a woodland 
footpath up the hill-side, by which he at the same time 
added a beautiful feature to the park, and secured a shorter 

road to the Chesterfield station. But it was some years 


before he found time to carry into effect his contemplated 
improvements in the adjoining gardens and pleasure- 
grounds. He had so long been accustomed to laborious 
pursuits, and felt himself still so full of work, that he 
could not at once settle down into the habit of quietly 
enjoying the fruits of his industry. 

He had no difficulty in usefully employing his time. 
Besides directing the mining operations at Clay cross, 
the establishment of the lime-kilns at Ambergate, and 
the construction of the extensive railways still in pro- 
gress, he occasionally paid visits to Newcastle, where 
his locomotive manufactory was now in full work, 
and the proprietors w r ere reaping the advantages of 
his early foresight in an abundant measure of pros- 
perity. One of his most interesting visits to the place 
was in 1838, on the occasion of the meeting of the 
British Association there, when he acted as one of the 


Y ice-Presidents in the section of Mechanical Science. 
Extraordinary changes had occurred in his own fortunes, 
as well as in the face of the country, since he had first 
appeared before a scientific body in Newcastle- -the 
members of the Literary and Philosophical Institute- 
to submit his safety-lamp for their examination. 
Twenty-three years had passed over his head, full of 
honest work, of manful struggle ; and the humble 
" colliery engine wright of the name of Stephenson ' 
had achieved an almost world-wide reputation as a 
public benefactor. His fellow-townsmen, therefore, could 
not hesitate to recognise his merits and do honour 
to his name. During the sittings of the Association, 
Mr. Stephenson took the opportunity of paying a visit 
to Killingworth, accompanied by some of the dis- 
tinguished savans whom he numbered amongst his 
friends. He there pointed out to them, with a degree 
of honest pride, the cottage in which he had lived for 
so many years, showed what parts of it had been his 
own handiwork, and told them the story of the sun-dial 
over the door, describing the study and the labour it 
had cost him and his son to calculate its dimensions, 
and fix it in its place. The dial had been serenely 
numbering the hours through the busy years that had 
elapsed since that humble dwelling had been his home ; 
during which the Killingworth locomotive had become 
a great working power, and its contriver had established 
the railway system, which was now rapidly becoming 
extended in all parts of the world. 

About the same time, his services were very much 
in request at the meetings of Mechanics' Institutes 
held throughout the northern counties. From an early 
period in his history, he had taken an active interest in 
these valuable institutions. While residing at Newcastle 
in 1824, shortly after his locomotive foundry had been 
started in Forth-street, he presided at a public meeting 
held in that town for the purpose of establishing a 

SPEECH \T i.r.r.hs. < I,M.. \vn. 

Mechanics' Institute. The nierimg \\as held; bul as 
(leor-v Stephenson was ;i man comparatively unknown 
even in Newcastle ;ii th;ii time. Ins name failed 1< 
secure "an influential attendance." Among those \vh<> 

addl'e ed the meet ing oil the ( tcciisK )ll, Was Joseph 
Locke, ihen his juijul. and afterwards Ins rival ;is ;m 

engineer, The local papers scarcely noticed the pn>- 
ceedings; vet the Mechanics' Institute was founded. 

;md Mr i lulled into existence. ^Tears' passed. ;md it \v:is 


uo\v felt to lie an honour to secure Mr. Stephenson's 
presence ;it any j >iiblic meetings held lor the promo- 
tion of popular education. Among the Mechanics' Insti- 
tutes in his immediate neighbourhood at Tapton, were 
those of Belper and Chesterfield ; and at their soirees 
he wa^ a i'reipient and a welcome visitor. On these 
occasions he loved to tell his auditors of the difficulties 
which had early heset him through want of knowledge, 
and of the means hy which he had overcome them. His 
grand text was- -PERSEVERE ; and there was manhood 
in the \ erv word. 

On more than one occasion, the author had the 
pleasure of listening to George Stephenson's homely 
hut forcible addresses at the annual soirees of the Leeds 
Mechanics' Institute. He was always an immense 
favourite with his audiences there. His personal 
appearance wa> givatly in his favour. A handsome, 
ruddy, expressive face, lit up by bright (lark-blue eyes, 
prepared one for his earnest Avords when lie stood up 
to speak and the cheers had subsided which invariably 
hailed his rising. He was not glib, but he was very 
impressive. And who, so well as he, could serve as a 
guide to the working man in his endeavours after 
higher knowledge ? His early life had been all struggle 
encounter with difficulty- -groping in the dark after 
greater light, but always earnestly and perse veringiy. 
His words were therefore all the more weight v, since 

O i ' 

he spoke from the fulness of his own experience. On 


one occasion he said- -" He had commenced his career 
on a lower level than any man present there. He 
made that remark for the purpose of encouraging young 
mechanics to do as he had done- -TO PERSEVERE. And 
he would tell them that the humblest amongst them 
occupied a much more advantageous position than he 
had done on commencing his life of labour. They had 
teachers who, going before them, had left their great 
discoveries as a legacy and a amide ; and their works 


were now accessible to all, in such institutions as that 
which he addressed. But he remembered the time 
when there were none thus to guide and instruct the 
vouna: mechanic. With a free access to scientific books, 

*j C? 

he knew, from his own experience, that they could be 
saved much unnecessary toil and expenditure of mental 
capital. Many ingenious young mechanics, if they 
failed to profit by the teaching of those who had 
preceded them, might often be induced to believe that 
they had hit upon some discovery in mechanics ; and 
when they had gone on spending both time and money, 
they would only arrive at the unpleasant discovery that 
what they had cherished as an original invention had 

been known manv vears before, and was to be found 

/ / 

recorded in scientific works." And again--" The man 
who wished to rise in his trade or profession must never 
see any insurmountable difficulties before him. Obstacles 
might appear to be such ; but they must be thrown 
overboard or conquered. This was the course which 
he had himself pursued." These characteristic senti- 
ments clearly illustrate the man, and show the fibre of 


which he was made ; and we need scarcely say that they 
served to give new life and hope to all who listened 
to him. 

Nor did he remain a mere inactive spectator of the 
improvements in railway working which increasing 
experience from day to day suggested. He continued 
to contrive improvements in the locomotive, and to 


mature liis invention <>!' the carriage-brake. \\ IM-H 

r\alllilied hrl'iire the Select < '< H 1 1111 it lee nil I ill 1 1 Wa \ s ill 

[841, his mind seems principally i> have been impressed 
\viili tlie necessity \vhidi existed I'm- adopting a system 

nf sell'-actm"- brakes; staling that, in his opinion. tlii> 

i 1 i i 

\v;is tlie ni"M importanl arrangement that could lie 
provided for increasing tin- safety <>!' railway travelling. 
" I believe," lie >aid. " that if self-acting brakes were 
juit upon every carriage, scarcely any accident could 
take place." His plan consisted in employing tlie 
iiinineiituni of tlie running train to throw his proposed 
l>rakes into action, immediately on tlie moving power of 
tlie engine Leiim* checked. He would also have these 

;> o 

brakes under the control of the guard. l>y means of a 
connecting line nmning along the whole length of the 
train. lv which they should at once be thrown out of 
-ear when necessary. 1 At the same time he suggested, 
as an additional means of safety, that the signals of the 

*/ ' 

line should be self-acting, and worked by the locomotives 
as they passed along the railway. He considered the 
adoption of this plan of so much importance, that, with a 
view to the public safety, he would even have it enforced 
upon railway companies by the legislature. At the 
same time he was of opinion that it was the interest of 
the companies themselves to adopt the plan, as it would 
save great tear and wear of engines, carriages, tenders, 
and brake-vans, besides greatly diminishing the risk of 
accidents upon railways. 

While before the same Committee, he took the oppor- 
tunity of stating his views with reference to railway 
speed, about which wild ideas were then afloat -one gen- 
tleman of celebrity having publicly expressed the opinion 
that a speed of a hundred miles an hour was practicable 
in railway travelling ! Not many years had passed since 

1 A lull description, with plans, of M. Gucrin, is given in the ' Practical 
Mr. Stephenson's sell-acting brake, j Mechanics' Journal,' vol. i. p. 53. 
since revived in a modified form by 




George Stephenson had been pronounced insane for 
stating his conviction that twelve miles an hour could 
be performed by the locomotive ; but now that he had 
established the fact, and greatly exceeded that speed, he 
was thought behind the age because he recommended 
the rate to be limited to forty miles an hour. He said : 
" I do not like either forty or fifty miles an hour upon 
any line- -I think it is an unnecessary speed ; and if 
there is danger upon a railway, it is high velocity that 
creates it. I should say no railway ought to exceed 
forty miles an hour on the most favourable gradient ; 
but upon a curved line the speed ought not to exceed 
twenty-four or twenty-five miles an hour/' He had, 
indeed, constructed for the Great Western Railway an 
engine capable of running fifty miles an hour with a 
load, and eighty miles without one. But he never was 
in favour of a hurricane speed of this sort, believing it 
could only be accomplished at an unnecessary increase 
both of danger and expense. 

" It is true," he observed on other occasions, 1 
" I have said the locomotive engine might be made 

to travel a hundred miles an hour ; but I alwavs 


put a cpalification on this, namely, as to what speed 
would best suit the public. The public may, how- 
ever, be unreasonable ; and fifty or sixty miles an 
hour is an unreasonable speed. Long before railway 
travelling became general, I said to my friends that 
there w^as no limit to the speed of the locomotive, pro- 
vided the works could be made to stand. But there are 
limits to the strength of iron, whether it be manu- 
factured into rails or locomotives ; and there is a point 
at which both rails and tyres must break. Every 
increase of speed, by increasing the strain upon the road 
and the rolling stock, brings us nearer to that point. 
At thirty miles a slighter road will do, and less perfect 

1 It may be mentioned that these 
views were communicated to the 

author by Eobert Stephenson, and 
noted down in his presence. 


rolling stock' may he run upon it with safety. But it 
you increase the speed by say ten miles, then everything 

4/ t' t 

must he uTeatlv strengthened. You must haye heavier 

engines, heavier and better-fastened rails, an<l all your 
working expenses will he immensely increased. I think 
1 know enough of mechanics to know where to stop. 
I know that a pound will weigh a pound, and that more 
should not he put upon an iron rail than it will hear. 
If YOU could ensure perfect iron, perfect rails, and perfect 
locomotives, I grant fifty miles an hour or more might 
be run with safety on a level railway. But then you 
must not forget that iron, even the best, will ' tire/ 
and with constant use will become more and more liable 
to break at the weakest point- -perhaps where there is 
a secret flaw that the eye cannot detect, Then look at 
the rubbishy rails now manufactured on the contract 
system- -some of them little better than cast metal : 
indeed, I have seen rails break merely 011 being thrown 
from the truck 011 to the ground. How is it possible 
for such rails to stand a twenty or thirty ton engine 
dashing over them at the speed of fifty miles an hour ? 
No, no," he would conclude, " I am in favour of low 
speeds because they are safe, and because they are 
economical ; and you may rely upon it that, beyond a 
certain point, with every increase of speed there is an 
increase in the element of danger." 

AY hen railways became the subject of popular dis- 
cussion, many new and unsound theories were started 
with reference to them, which Stephenson opposed as cal- 
culated, in his opinion, to bring discredit on the locomo- 
tive system. One of these was with reference to what 
were called " undulating lines." Among others, Dr. 
Lardner, who had originally been somewhat sceptical 
about the powers of the locomotive, now promulgated 
the idea that a railway constructed with rising and falling 
gradients would be practically as easy to work as a line 
perfectly level. Mr. Badnell went even beyond him, for 


he held that an undulating railway was much better than 
a level one for purposes of working. 1 For a time, this 
theory found favour, and the " undulating system ' was 
extensively adopted ; but Mr. Stephenson never ceased 
to inveigh against it ; and experience has amply proved 
that his judgment was correct. His practice, from the 
beginning of his career until the end of it, was to secure 
a road as nearly as possible on a level, following the 
course of the valleys and the natural line of the country ; 
preferring to go round a hill rather than to tunnel under 
it or carry his railway over it, and often making a 
considerable circuit to secure good, workable gradients. 
He studied to lay out his lines so that long trains of 
minerals and merchandise, as well as passengers, might 
be hauled along them at the least possible expenditure 
of locomotive power. He had long before ascertained, 
I >y careful experiments at Killingworth, that the engine 
expends half of its full power in overcoming a rising 
gradient of 1 in 2 GO, which is about 20 feet in the mile ; 
and that when the gradient is so steep as 1 in 100, not 
less than three-fourths of its propelling power is sacri- 
ficed in ascending the acclivity. He never forgot the 
valuable practical lesson taught him by those early 
trials made and registered in the company of Nicholas 
Wood, long before the advantages of railways had 
been recognized. He saw clearly that the longer flat 
line must eventually prove superior to the shorter line 
of steep gradients as respected its paying qualities. He 
urged that, after all, the power of the locomotive was 
but limited ; and, although he and his son had done 
more than any other men to increase its working 
power, it provoked him to find that every improve- 
ment made in it was neutralised by the steep gra- 
dients which the new school of engineers were setting 

' Treatise on Hallway Improvements.' By Mr. Richard Badnell, C.E. 


it to uvereMine. ( )n <>iir occasion, \\hen Robert Si<- 
phenson stated he r re ;i Parliamentary Committee thai 
every successive improvemenl in tin 1 locomotive was 

In-ill"- rendered virinallv minatory 1>\ tli-- difficult ;ni'l 
. i 

ahnuxi impracticable gradients proposed on many of the 
new lines, his father, on Ins leaving the witness-box, 
went iij> to him, ;m<l said, "Robert, YOU aever spoke 
truer words than those in nil voiir life." 

To this it must he added, flint in urging these views 
Mr. Stephenson was strongly influenced by conmier- 
ei;d considerations. He had no desire to build up his 
reputation at the expense of railway shareholders, 
nor to obtain engineering eclat 1>v making "ducks 


and drakes' of their money. He was persuaded that, 
in order to secure the practical success of railways, they 
must be so laid out as not only to prove of decided 
public utility, but also to be worked economically and 
to the advantage of their proprietors. They were nut 
government roads, but private ventures- -in fact, com- 
mercial speculations. He therefore endeavoured to 
render them financially profitable ; and he repeatedly 
declared that if he did not believe they could be " made 
to pay," he would have nothing to do with them. 1 He 
was not influenced by the sordid consideration of what 
he could make out of any company that employed 
him ; indeed, in many cases he voluntarily gave up his 
claim to remuneration where the promoters of schemes 
which he thought praiseworthy had suffered serious loss. 

1 He frequently refused to act as 
the engineer for lines -which he thought 
would not prove remunerative, or 
when he considered the estimates too 
low. Thus, when giving evidence on 
the Great Western Bill, Mr. Stephen- 
son said, " I made out an estimate for 
the Hartlepool Hallway, which they 
returned on account of its being too 
high, but I declined going to Parlia- 

ment with a lower estimate." An- 
other engineer was employed. Then, 
again, " I was consulted about a line 
from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The 
directors chalked out a line and sent it 
to me, and I told them I could not 
support it in that case." Hence the 
employment of another engineer to 
carry out the line which Mr. Stephen- 
son could not conscientiously advocate. 


Thus, when the first application was made to Parliament 
for the Chester and Birkenhead Eailway Bill, the pro- 
moters were defeated. They repeated their application, 
on the understanding that in event of their succeeding, 
the engineer and surveyor were to be paid their costs 
in respect of the defeated measure. The Bill was 
successful, and to several parties their costs were paid. 
Mr. Stephenson's amounted to SOO/., and he very nobly- 
said, " You have had an expensive career in Parlia- 
ment ; you have had a great struggle ; you are a young 
Company ; you cannot afford to pay me this amount of 
money : I will reduce it to 200L and I will not ask you 

c/ ** 

for that 200/. until your shares are at 20/. premium ; for 
whatever may be the reverses you will go through, I 

am satisfied I shall live to see the day when vour 

j j 

shares will be at 20/. premium, and when I can legally 
and honourably claim that 200/." l We may add that 
the shares did eventually rise to the premium specified, 
and the engineer was no loser by his generous conduct 
in the transaction. 

Another novelty of the time, with which George 
Stepheiison had to contend, was the substitution of 
atmospheric pressure for locomotive steam-power in the 
working of railways. The idea of obtaining motion by 
means of atmospheric pressure is said to have originated 
with Papin, the French philosopher, more than a, century 
and a half ago; but it slept until revived in 1810 by 
Mr. Medhurst, who published a pamphlet to prove the 
practicability of carrying letters and goods by air. In 
1824, Mr. Vallance of Brighton took out a patent for 
projecting passengers through a tube large enough to 
contain a train of carriages ; the tube being previously 
exhausted of its atmospheric air. The same idea was 
afterwards taken up, in 1835, by Mr. Pinkus, an inge- 

1 Speecli of Win. Jackson, Esq., 
M.P., at the meeting of the Chester and 

Birkenhead Railway Company, held at 
Liverpool, October, 1845. 

VOL. III. 2 B 


American, Scientific gentlemen, Dr. Lardner 

;ii!l Mr. r! amongst others, advnealed the pl;m ; 

and ;m association was formed to carry ii ini<> el'ieei. 
Shares were created, and raised; :m<l ;i model 

apparatus wa^ exhibited in London. Mr. Yigimllcx 
took his friend .Mr. Stephenson i< see the model; ;md 
after carefully examining it. IK- observed emphatically, 
" .// /r//'f (/<>: it is only the fixed engines and TO] 
over again, in another form : and, to it'll yon the irutli, 
I don't think tin's rope of wind will answer so \vel! ;js 
tlie rope of wire did." I To did not think the principle 
would >tand the test of practice, and he objected to the 
mode of applying the principle. After all, it was only 
a modification of the stationary-engine plan; and every 
day's experience was proving that fixed engines could 
not compete with locomotives in point of efficiency and 
economy. He stood l>y the locomotive engine; and 
subsequent experience proved that he was right. 

Messrs-. Clegg and Samuda afterwards, in 1840, 
patented their plan of an atmospheric railway; and 
they publicly tested its working on an unfinished por- 
tion of the West London Eailway. The results of the 
experiment were so satisfactory, that the directors of 
.the Dublin and Kingstown line adopted it between 
Kingstown and Dalkey. The London and Oroydon 
Company also adopted the atmospheric principle; and 
their line was opened in 1845. The ordinary mode of 
applying the power was to lay between the line of rails 
a pipe, in which a large piston was inserted, and 
attached by a shaft to the framework of a carriage. 
The propelling power was the ordinary pressure of the 
atmosphere acting against the piston in the tube on one 
side, a vacuum being created in the tube on the other 
side of the piston by the working of a stationary engine. 
Great was the popularity of the atmospheric system ; 
and still George Stephenson said, " It won't do : it's but 


a gimcrack." Engineers of distinction said he was 
prejudiced, and that he looked upon the locomotive as 
a pet child of his own. " "Wait a liftle," he replied, 
" and you will see that I am right." 

Mr. Brunei, Mr. Cubitt, Mr. Yignolles, Mr. James 
Walker, Dr. Lardner, and many others equally distin- 
guished, strongly approved of the atmospheric railway ; 
and it was generally supposed that the locomotive 
system was about to be snuffed out. " Not so fast," 
said Stephenson. " Let us wait to see if it will pay." 
He never believed it would. It was ingenious, clever, 
scientific, and all that ; but railways were commercial 
enterprises, not toys ; and if the atmospheric railway 
could not work to a profit, it would not do. Considered 
in this light, he even went so far as to call it "a great 

No one can say that the atmospheric railway had not 
a fair trial. The Government engineer, General Pasley, 
did for it what had never been done for the locomotive 
-he reported in its favour, whereas a former Govern- 
ment engineer had inferentially reported against the 
use of locomotive power on railways. The House of 
Commons also had reported in favour of the use of the 
steam-engine on common roads ; yet the railway loco- 
motive had vitality enough in it to live through all. 
" Nothing will beat it," said George Stephenson, " for 
efficiency in all weathers, for economy in drawing loads 
of average weight, and for power and speed as occasion 
may require." 

The atmospheric system was fairly and fully tried, 
and it was found wanting. It was admitted to be an 
exceedingly elegant mode of applying power ; its devices 
were very skilful, and its mechanism was most ingenious. 
But it was costly, irregular in action, and, in particular 
kinds of weather, not to be depended upon. At best, 
it was but a modification of the stationary-engine system, 
and experience proved it to be so expensive that it was 

2 B 2 



shortly nl'in- entirely abandoned in llivMiir <>f locomotive 


power. 1 

One of tin- remarkable ivsnhs n f tin- system <>r r;iil- 

wav locomotion \\liidi (Imruv Steplienson li:nl hv liis 


jMTsi'YtTiiiLr labours mainly contributed to establish, \v;is 

llir ..inl>iv;ik >{' tlir r;iilw;iy ni;ini;i towards lli<- close <>f 

liis professional career. The success of the, first main 
lines of railway naturally led to their extension into 
many ne\v districts; ]>nt a strongly speculative tendency 
soon lie^an to display itself, wliich contained in it the 
elements of great danger. 2 In the sessions of 183G and 
1837, seventy-six Acts were obtained, authorising- the 
construction of 1458 miles of new railway at an expen- 
diture of 25,6SO,000/. ; and by the end of 1837 notices 
were given of seventy-five more Bills, to authorise the 
formation of 1230 additional miles of railway at an 


estimated cost of about 19,000,0007. This was more 
than the means of the country could fairly bear. The 
shares of many. companies went to a discount; and a 
collapse took place, which, together with the restrictions 
imposed by Parliament on the obtaining of new Acts, 
had the effect, for a time, of placing a wholesome 
restraint on further speculation. During the sessions of 

1 The question of the specific 
merits of the atmospheric as com- 
pared with the fixed engine and loco- 
motive systems, will he 'found 'fully 
discussed in Robert Stephenspn's able 
' Report on the Atmospheric Railway 
S\>tdii,' 1844, in which he gives the 
r<-snlt of numerous observations and 
experiments made hy him on the 
Kingstown Atmospheric Railway, 
with the object of ascertaining whe- 
ther the new power would be applicable 
for the working of the Chester and 
Holyhead Railway, then under con- 
struction. His opinion was decidedly 
; i ^ainst the atmospheric railway sys- 

2 The traffic cases got up by the 
professional advocates of some of the 
Bills applied for in 183G and 1837 
were of the most fallacious character, 

as has been proved by the actual re- 
sults. Traffic-taking was one of the 
j arts by which extraordinary profits 
were then proved. Thus in 18'!<i, 
the traffic case of the Eastern Counties 
Railwa\ T showed that there would In- a 
clear profit on the outlay of 23J per 
edit.! the York and North Midland, 
of 33^; and the London and Cam- 
bridge, of 14^- per cent. During the 
session of 1837 the traffic-takers grew 
bolder, and reached their highest 
flights. Thus, the promoters of the 
Sheffield and Manchester Bill " proved" 
a traffic which was to yield a net profit 
of 18| per cent, on the outlay. One 
of the fortunate shareholders in the 
company, in a letter to the ' Railway 
Magazine,' even went so far beyond 
the traffic -taker, as to calculate on a 
dividend of 80 per cent. ! 




1838 and 1839 only five new railway companies ob- 
tained Acts of incorporation. In 1840, not a single 
Act was passed ; and in 1841, only a branch of 5| miles 
in length was authorized, which was not carried out. 
The next two sessions were equally quiet ; and it was 
not until 1844, that the tide of railway enterprise sud- 
denly rose again, and in the following year burst all 
bounds, breaking out in the wildest fury of speculation. 

The extension of railways had, up to the year 1844, 
been mainly effected by men of the commercial classes, 
and the shareholders in them principally belonged to 
the manufacturing districts, --the capitalists of the me- 
tropolis as yet holding aloof, and prophesying disaster 
to all concerned in railway projects. 1 The Stock Ex- 
change looked askance upon them, and it was with 
difficulty that respectable brokers could be found to do 
business in the shares. But when the lugubrious antici- 
pations of the City men were found to be so entirely 
falsified by the results- -when, after the lapse of years, 
it was ascertained that railway traffic rapidly increased 
and dividends steadily improved- -a change came over 
the spirit of the London capitalists. They then invested 
largely in railways, the shares in which became a lead- 
ing branch of business on the Stock Exchange, and the 
prices of some rose to nearly double their original 

A stimulus was thus given to the projection of further 
lines, the shares in most of which came out at a premium, 
and became the subject of immediate traffic. A reckless 
spirit of gambling set in, which completely changed the 
character and objects of railway enterprise. The public 
outside the Stock Exchange became also infected, and 
many persons utterly ignorant of railways, knowing 

1 The leading "City men" looked 
with great suspicion on the first rail- 
way projects, having no faith in their 
success. In 1835, the solicitorship of 
the Brighton Railway (then projected) 

was offered to a city firm of high 
standing, and refused, one of the 
partners assigning as a reason, that 
" the coaches would drive the railway 
trains off the road in a month ! " 



and caring nothing about their national uses, but hunger- 
ing and ihirMinir after premium-, ru-hed eagerly into 

the vortex. They applied for allotments, and subscribed 

tor shares in lines. <>f the engineering character or 
probable traffic of which thev knew nothingr. Provided 

thev e.Mild hut olitain allotments which they could sell 
at a premium, and put the profit- -in many cases the 
only f-npital they possessed 1 into their pocket, it was 
for them. The mania was not confined to the 

^ of the Stock Exchange, but infected all ranks. 
It embraced merchants and manufacturers, gentry and 
shopkeepers, clerks in public offices, and loungers at the 
clubs. Xoble lords were pointed at as " stags ;' there 
were even clergymen who were characterised as " bulls 
and amiable ladies who had the reputation of "bears, 
in the share-markets. The few quiet men who remained 
uninfluenced by the speculation of the time were, in not 
a lew cases, even reproached for doing injustice to their 
families, in declining to help themselves from the stores 
of wealth that were poured out on all sides. 

Folly and knavery were, for a time, completely in the 
ascendant. The sharpers of society were let loose, and 
jobbers and schemers became more and more plentiful. 
They threw out railway schemes as lures to catch the 
unwary. They fed the mania with a constant succession 
of new projects. The railway papers became loaded 
with their advertisements. The post-office was scarcely 
able to distribute the multitude of prospectuses and 
circulars which they issued. For a time their popu- 
larity was immense. They rose like froth into the 
upper heights of society, and the flunkey FitzPlushe, by 
virtue of his supposed wealth, sat amongst peers and 
was idolised. Then was the harvest-time of scheming 

1 The Marquis of Clanricarde brought 
under the nuiice oi' the House of L< 
in 1845, that one Charles (.niernsey, 
the son of a charwoman, and a clerk 
in a broker's office, at ,12s. a week, 

had his name down as a subscriber for 
shares in the London and York line, 
for 52,OOOZ. Doubtless he had been 
made useful for the purpose by the 
brokers, his employers. 


lawyers, parliamentary agents, engineers, surveyors, 
and traffic-takers, who were alike ready to take up any 
railway scheme however desperate, and to prove any 
amount of traffic even where none existed. The traffic 
in the credulity of their dupes was, however, the great 
fact that mainly concerned them, and of the profitable 
character of which there could be no doubt. 

Parliament, whose previous conduct in connection 
with railway legislation was so open to reprehension, 
interposed no .check- -attempted no remedy. On the 
contrary, it helped to intensify the evils arising from 
this unseemly state of things. Many of its members 
were themselves involved in the mania, and as much 
interested in its continuance as the vulgar herd of 
money-grubbers. The railway prospectuses now issued 
-unlike the original Liverpool and Manchester, and 
London and Birmingham schemes- -were headed by 
peers, baronets, landed proprietors, and strings of M.P's. 
Thus, it was found in 1845 that no fewer than 157 
members of Parliament were on the lists of new com- 
panies as subscribers for sums ranging from 291,000/. 
downwards ! The projectors of new lines even came to 
boast of their parliamentary strength, and of the number 
of votes which they could command in " the House." 
At all events, it is matter of fact, that many utterly 
ruinous branches and extensions projected during the 
mania, calculated only to benefit the inhabitants of a 
few miserable boroughs accidentally omitted from Sche- 
dule A, were authorised in the memorable sessions of 
1844 and 1845. 

Mr. Stephensoii was anxiously entreated to lend his 
name to prospectuses during the railway mania ; but he 
invariably refused. He held aloof from the headlong 
folly of the hour ; and endeavoured to check it, but in 
vain. Had he been less scrupulous, and given his coun- 
tenance to the numerous projects about which he was 
consulted, he might, without any trouble, have thus 


secured enormous .u'Mins; but lie li;id no desire 1o 

accumulate a fortune without labour and without lionour. 
He himself never speculated m shares. When he was 
iis to the niefiis of any undertaking, lie sul>- 

for ;i certain amount of capital in it, and held 
on. neither buying nor selling. At a dinner of the 

L'fdsand Bradford directors a1 I>en Rydding in October, 

1844, before the mania had reached its height, In- 
warned those presenl against the prevalent disposition 
towards railway speculation. It was, he said, like walk- 
ing ii])on a piece of ice with shallows and deeps; the 
shallows were frozen over, and they would carry, but it 
required great caution to get over the deeps. He was 
satisfied that in the course of the next year many would 
step on places not strong enough to carry them, and 
would get into the deeps; they would be taking shares, 
and afterwards be unable to pay the calls upon them. 
Yorkshiremen were reckoned clever men, and his advice 
to them was, to stick together and promote communica- 
tion in their own neighbourhood,- -not to go abroad 
with their speculations. If any had done so, he advised 
them to get their money back as fast as they could, for 
if they did not they would not get it at all. He 
informed the company, at the same time, of his earliest 
holding of railway shares ; it was in the Stockton and 
Darlington Railway, and the number he held was three- 
" a very large capital for him to possess at the time." 
But a Stockton friend was anxious to possess a share, 
and he sold him one at a premium of 33s. ; he supposed 
he had been about the first man in England to sell a 
railway share at a premium. 

During 1845, his son's offices in 'Great George-street, 
Westminster, were crowded with persons of various 
conditions seeking interviews, presenting very much the 
appearance of the levee of a minister of state. The 
burly figure of Mr. Hudson, the " Eailway King," sur- 
rounded by an admiring group of followers, was often 




to be seen there; and a still more interesting person, in 
the estimation of many, was George Stephenson, dressed 
in black, his coat of somewhat old-fashioned cut, with 
square pockets in the tails. He wore a white neckcloth, 
and a large bunch of seals was suspended from his 
watch-ribbon. Altogether, he presented an appearance 
of health, intelligence, and good humour, that rejoiced 
one to look upon in that sordid, selfish, and eventually 
ruinous saturnalia of railway speculation. 

Being still the consulting engineer of several of the 
older companies, he necessarily appeared before Parlia- 
ment in support of their branches and extensions. In 
1845 his name was associated with that of his son as the 
engineer of the Southport and Preston Junction. In 
the same session he gave evidence in favour of the 
Syston and Peterborough branch of the Midland Rail- 
way ; but his principal attention was confined to the 
promotion of the line from Newcastle to Berwick, in 
which he had never ceased to take the deepest interest. 
At the same time he was engaged in examining and 
reporting upon certain foreign lines of considerable 

Powers were granted by Parliament, in 1845, to 
construct not less than 2883 miles of new railways in 
Britain, at an expenditure of about forty-four millions 
sterling ! Yet the mania w r as not appeased ; for in the 
following session of 1846, applications w^ere made to 
Parliament for powers to raise 389,000,000^. sterling for 
the construction of further lines ; and powers were 
actually conceded for forming 4790 miles (including 60 
miles of tunnels), at a cost of about 120, 000, 000 /. ster- 
ling. 1 During this session, Mr. Stephenson appeared as 
engineer for only one new line,- -the Buxton, Maccles- 

2 On the 17th November, 1845, Mr. 
Spackman published a list of the lilies 
projected (many of which were not 
afterwards prosecuted), from which it 

appeared that there were then 620 
new railway projects before the public, 
requiring a capital of 563,203,000?. 


lield, CongletOH, and (Ye\ve Railway aline in which. 

as ;i coal-owner, he \v:is personally interested;- MIH! <>l 
thrcr branch-lines in connexion with existing companies 
for which he h;i<l Inn-- acted as engineer. At the same 
period, nil the leading professional men were fully 
occupied, some of them appearing MS consulting engineers 

lor upwards of thirty lines each ! 

One of the features of the mania was the rage for 
" diivei lines" which everywhere displayed itself. There 
were "Direct Manchester," " Direct Exeter," "Direct 
York," and, indeed, new direct lines between most of 
the large towns. The Marquis of Bristol, speaking in 
favour of the " Direct Norwich and London' project, at 
a public meeting at Haverhill, said, " If necessary, they 
might nmfo'a tunnel beneath his very dravnng-room, rather 
than be defeated in their undertaking ! ' And the liev. 
F. Litchfield, at a meeting in Banbury, on the subject of 
a line to that town, said " He had laid down for himself 
a limit to his approbation of railways, at least of such 
as approached the neighbourhood with which he was 
connected, and that limit was, that he did not wish 
them to approach any nearer to him than to run through 
his bedroom, with the bedposts for a station ! ' How 
different was the spirit which influenced these noble 
lords and gentlemen but a few years before ! 

The course adopted by Parliament in dealing with 
the multitude of railway bills applied for during the 
prevalence of the mania, was as irrational as it proved 
to be unfortunate. The want of foresight displayed by 
both Houses in obstructing the railway system so long 
as it was based upon sound commercial principles, was 
only equalled by the fatal facility with which they now 
granted railway projects based only upon the wildest 
speculation. Parliament interposed no check, laid down 
no principle, furnished no guidance, for the conduct of 
railway projectors ; but left every company to select its 
own locality, determine its own line, and fix its own 


gauge. No regard was paid to the claims of existing 
companies, which had already expended so large an 
amount in the formation of useful railways ; and specu- 
lators were left at full liberty to project and carry out 
lines almost parallel with theirs. 

The House of Commons became thoroughly influenced 
by the prevailing excitement. Even the Board of Trade 
began to favour the views of the fast school of engineers. 
In their " Report on the Lines projected in the Man- 
chester and Leeds District," they promulgated some 
remarkable views respecting gradients, declaring them- 
selves in favour of the " undulating system." They 
there stated that lines of an undulating character " which 
have gradients of 1 in 70 or 1 in 80 distributed over 
them in short lengths, may be positively better lines, 
i. e.y more susceptible of cheap and expeditious working, 
than others which have nothing steeper than 1 in 100 
or 1 in 120 !' They concluded by reporting in favour 
of the line which exhibited the worst gradients and the 
sharpest curves, chiefly on the ground that it could be 
constructed for less money. 

Sir Robert Peel took occasion, when speaking in 
favour of the continuance of the Railways Department 
of the Board of Trade, to advert to this Report in the 
House of Commons on the 4th of March following, as 
containing " a novel and highly important view on the 
subject of gradients, which, he was certain, never could 
have been taken by any Committee of the House of 
Commons, however intelligent ; ' and he might have 
added, that the more intelligent, the less likely they 
were to arrive at any such conclusion. When. Mr. 
Stephensoii saw this report of the Premier's speech in 
the newspapers of the following morning, he went forth- 
with to his son, and asked him to write a letter to Sir 
Robert Peel 011 the subject. He saw clearly that if 
these views were adopted, the utility and economy of 
railways would be seriously curtailed. " These members 


of Parliament," said lie, "are now MS much disposed to 

exaggerate tin- powers of tin- locomotive, MS tlicy were 

to under-estimate tliem but a lew years MLTO.' Ilohert 

accordingly wrote a letter for his father's signature, 

<^ / C_J 

eiiibodvinir the views which lie so slnmirlv cuter- 

i/ O 

tained as to the importance of flat gradients, and 
referring to the experiments conducted hy him many 
years he fore, in proof of the great loss of working power 
which was incurred on a line of steep as compare* I with 
easy gradients. It was clear, from the tone of Sir 
Robert Peel's speech in a subsequent debate, that he 
had carefully read and considered Mr. Stephenson's 
practical observations on the subject ; though it did not 
appear that he had come to any definite conclusion 
thereon, further than that he strongly approved of the 
Trent Talley Railway, by which Tamworth would be 
placed upon a direct main line of communication. 

The result of the labours of Parliament was a tissue 
of legislative bungling, involving enormous loss to the 
public. Railway Bills were granted in heaps. Two 
hundred and seventy-two additional Acts were passed in 
1846. Some authorised the construction of lines running 
almost parallel to existing railways, in order to afford 
the public " the benefits of unrestricted competition." 
Locomotive and atmospheric lines, broad-gauge and 
narrow-gauge lines, were granted without hesitation. 
Committees decided without judgment and without 
discrimination ; it was a scramble for Bills, in which 
the most unscrupulous were the most successful. As an 
illustration of the legislative folly of the period, Mr. 
Robert Stephensou, speaking at Toronto, in Upper 
Canada, some years later, adduced the following in- 
stances : " There was one district through which it 
was proposed to run two lines, and there was no other 
difficulty between them than the simple rivalry that, if 
one got a charter, the other might also. But here, 
where the Committee might have given both, they gave 


neither. In another instance, two lines were projected 
through a barren country, and the Committee gave the 
one which afforded the least accommodation to the public. 
In another, where two lines were projected to run, 
merely to shorten the time by a few minutes, leading 
through a mountainous country, the Committee gave 
both. So that, where the Committee might have given 
both, they gave neither, and where they should have 
given neither, they gave both." 

Amongst the many ill effects of the mania, one of the 
worst was that it introduced a low tone of morality into 
railway transactions. The bad spirit which had been 
evoked by it unhappily extended to the commercial 
classes, and many of the most flagrant swindles of recent 
times had their origin in the year 1845. Those who 
had suddenly gained large sums without labour, and 
also without honour, were too ready to enter upon 
courses of the wildest extravagance ; and a false style 
of living shortly arose, the poisonous influence of which 
extended through all classes. Men began to look upon 
railways as instruments to job with. Persons, some- 
times possessing information respecting railways, but 
more frequently possessing none, got upon boards for 
the purpose of promoting their individual objects, often 
in a very unscrupulous manner ; landowners, to pro- 
mote branch lines through their property ; speculators 
in shares, to trade upon the exclusive information which 
they obtained ; whilst some directors were appointed 
through the influence mainly of solicitors, contractors, 
or engineers, who used them as tools to serve their own 
ends. In this way the unfortunate proprietors were, in 
many cases, betrayed, and their property was shame- 
fully squandered, much to the discredit of the railway 

One of the most prominent celebrities of the mania 
was Greorge Hudson, of York. He was a man of some 
local repute in that city when the line between Leeds 


;nid York was projeeted. His views ;is to raihvays 
were then extremely moderate, ;nnl liis main obied in 

ioiniii"- the undertaking: was to secure i'or ^ ork the 

advantage's of the best railway communication. The 

( '"inpanv was not very prosperous ;i1 fir.-i. and during 
the years I sin ami L 841 the shares had greatly sunk in 

value. Mr. Alderman Meek, the iirst chairman, having 
retired, Mr. Hudson was elected in liis stead, and he 
very shortly contrived to pay improved dividends to 
the proprietors, who asked no questions. Desiring to 
ex lend the field of his operations, he proceeded to lease 
the Leeds and Selby Railway at five per cent. That 
line had hitherto been a losing concern ; so its owners 
readily struck a bargain with Mr. Hudson, and sounded 
his praises in all directions. He increased the dividends 
on the York and North Midland shares to ten per cent., 
and began to be cited as the model of a railway 

He next interested himself in the North Midland 
Railway, where he appeared in the character of a re- 
former of abuses. The North Midland shares also had 
gone to a great discount, and the shareholders were 
very willing to give Mr. Hudson an opportunity of 
reforming their railway. They elected him a director. 
His bustling, pushing, persevering character gave him 
an influential position at the board, and he soon pushed 
the old directors from their stools. He laboured hard, 
at much personal inconvenience, to help the concern out 
of its difficulties, and he succeeded. The new directors 
recognised his power, and elected him their chairman. 

Railway affairs revived in 1842, and public confidence 
in them as profitable investments was gradually in- 
creasing. Mr. Hudson had the benefit of this growing 
prosperity. The dividends in his lines improved, and 
the shares rose in value. The Lord Mayor of York 
began to be quoted as one of the most capable of rail- 
way directors. Stimulated by his success and encou- 


raged by his followers, he struck out or supported many 
new projects a line to Scarborough, a line to Bradford, 
lines in the Midland districts, and lines to connect York 
with Newcastle and Edinburgh. He was elected chair- 
man of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway ; and 
when- -in order to complete the continuity of the main 
line of communication it was found necessary to secure 


the Durham junction, which was an important link in 
the chain, he and Mr. Stephensoii boldly purchased that 
railway between them, at the price of 8S,500/. It was 
an exceedingly fortunate purchase for the Company, to 
whom it was worth double the money. The act, though 
not strictly legal, proved successful, and was much 
lauded. Thus encouraged, Mr. Hudson proceeded to 
buy the Brandling Junction line for 500, GOO/., in his 
own name --an operation at the time regarded as equally 
fayourable, though he was afterwards charged with 
appropriating 1600 of the shares created for the pur- 
chase, when worth 2 1/, premium each. The Great 
North of England line being completed, Mr. Hudson 
had thus secured the entire line of communication from 
York to Newcastle, and the route was opened to the 
public in June, 1844. On that occasion Newcastle 
eulogised Mr. Hudson in its choicest local eloquence, 
and he was pronounced to be the greatest benefactor 
the district had ever known. 

The adulation which now followed Mr. Hudson would 
have intoxicated a stronger and more self-denying man. 
He was pronounced the man of the age, and hailed as 
" the Railway King." The grand test by which the 
shareholders judged him was the dividends that he paid, 
although subsequent events proved that these dividends 
were in many cases delusive, intended only " to make 
things pleasant." The policy, however, had its effect. 
The shares in all the lines of which he was chairman 
went to a premium, and then arose the temptation to 
create new shares in branch and extension lines, often 


\yortl i le>s. which were issued at a premium also. Thus he 

shortly found himself chairman of nearly 600 miles of rail- 

ways, extending tVom Rugby to Newcastle, and .-it the 

he;id <>f numerous nr\y project^, by means of which 

paper wealth could In- created, as it were, \\\ pleasure. 
lie held in liis own hands almost the entire administra- 
tive power of the companies over which he presided : 

he was chairman, ho;ml, manager, mid nil. His ad- 
mirers l'>r the time, inspired sometimes |>\- gratitude l<>r 
paM favours, Init oftencr by the expectation of favours 
to come, supported him in all his measures. At the 
meetings of the companies, if any suspicions inquirer 
yentnred to put a question about the accounts, lie was 
summarily put down by the chair, and hissed by the 
proprietors. Mr. Hudson was voted praises, testimo- 
nials, and surplus shares, alike liberally ; and scarcely a 
word against him could find a hearing. He w r as equally 
popular outside the circle of railway proprietors. His 
entertainments at Albert Gate were crowded by syco- 
phants, many of them titled ; and he went his round of 
visits among the peerage like a prince. 

Of course Mr. Hudson was a great authority on rail- 
way questions in Parliament, to which the burgesses of 
Sunderland had sent him. His experience of railways, 
still little understood, thouerh the subject of so much 

C2 *J 

legislation, gave value and weight to his opinions, and 
in many respects he was a useful member. During the 
first years of his membership he was chiefly occupied in 
passing the railway bills in which lie was more particu- 
larly interested ; and in the session of 1845, when he 
was at the height of his power, it was triumphantly said 
of him, that " he walked quietly through Parliament 
with some sixteen railway bills under his arm." One 
of these bills, however, was the subject of a very severe 
contest- -we mean that empowering the construction of 
the railway from Newcastle to Berwick. It was almost 


the only bill in which Greorge Stephenson was that year 


concerned. Mr. Hudson displayed great energy in sup- 
porting the measure, and he worked hard to ensure its 
success both in and out of Parliament ; but he himself 
attributed -the chief merit to Mr. Stephenson. He 
accordingly suggested to the shareholders that they 
should present him with some fitting testimonial in re- 
cognition of his valuable services. Indeed, a Stephenson 
testimonial had long been spoken of, and a committee 
was formed for the purpose of raising subscriptions as 
early as the year 1839. Mr. Hudson now revived the 
subject, and successively appealed to the Newcastle and 
Darlington, the Midland, and the York and North Mid- 
land Companies, who unanimously adopted the resolu- 
tions which he proposed to them amidst "loud applause ;" 
but there the matter ended. 

The Hudson Testimonial was a much more taking- 
thing ; for Mr. Hudson had it in his power to allot 
shares (selling at a premium) to the subscribers to his 
testimonial. But Mr. Stephenson pretended to fill no 
man's pocket with premiums ; he was no creator of 
shares, and could not therefore work upon shareholders' 
gratitude for "favours to come." The proposed testi- 
monial to him accordingly ended with resolutions and 
speeches. The York, Newcastle, and Berwick Board- -in 
other words, Mr. Hudson did indeed mark their sense 
of the "great obligations' which they were under to 
Mr. Stephenson for helping to carry their bill through 
Parliament, by making him an allotment of thirty of 
the new shares authorised by the Act. But, as after- 
wards appeared, the chairman had at the same time 
appropriated to himself not fewer than 10,894 of the 
same shares, the premiums on which were then worth, 
in the market, about 145,000/. This shabby manner of 
acknowledging the gratitude of the Company to their 
engineer, was strongly resented by Mr. Stephenson at 
the time, and a coolness took place between him and 
Mr. Hudson which was never wholly removed though 

VOL. in. 2 c 

FALL <!' Till-; RAILWAY Kl\<i. CHAP. XVII. 

they afterwards shook- hands, mid Mi-. Stephenson de- 
clared thai ;tll \v;is forgot ten. 

Mr. Hudson's brief reign soon drew to n dose. The 
speculation of 1M.~ was followed by ;i sudd<n reaction. 

Shares went down faster tlian they had i^one up; the 
holders of tin-in hastened to sell in order t avoid pay- 
ment of the calls, and many found themselves ruined. 
Then came repentance, and a sudden return to virtue. 
Tin- betting-man who, temporarily abandoning the turf 
for the share-market, had played his heaviest stake and 
lost; the merchant who had left his business, and the 
doctor who had neglected his patients, to gamble in rail- 
way stock, and been ruined ; the penniless knaves and 
schemers, who had speculated so recklessly and gained 
so little ; the titled and fashionable people, who had 
1 lowed themselves so low before the idol of the day, and 
found themselves deceived and "done;" the credulous 
small capitalists, who, dazzled by premiums, had in- 
vested their all in railway shares, and now saw them- 
selves stripped of everything- -were grievously enraged, 
and looked about them for a victim. In. this temper 
were shareholders, when, at a railway meeting in York, 
some pertinent questions were put to the Railway King. 
His replies were not satisfactory, and the questions were 
pushed home. Mr. Hudson became confused. Angry 
voices rose in the meeting. A committee of investiga- 
tion was appointed. The golden calf was found to 
be of brass, and hurled down ; Hudson's own toadies 
and sycophants eagerly joining the chorus of popular 
indignation. Similar proceedings shortly after occurred 
at the meetings of other companies, and the bubbles 
having by that time burst, the Eailway Mania came to 
a sudden and ignominious end. 

AVhile the mania was at its height in England, rail- 
ways were also being extended abroad, and George 
Stephenson was requested on several occasions to give 
the benefit of his advice to the directors of foreign 


undertakings. One of the most agreeable of these 
excursions was to Belgium in 1845, in company with 
his friends Mr. Sopwith and Mr. Starbuck. His special 
object was to examine the proposed line of the Sambre 
and Meuse Railway, for which a concession had been 

t/ ' 

granted by the Belgian legislature. Arrived on the 
ground, he went carefully over the entire length of 
the proposed line, to Couvins, the Forest of Ardennes, 
and Rocroi, across the French frontier ; examining the 
bearings of the coal-field, the slate and marble quarries, 
and the numerous iron mines in existence between the 
Sambre and the Meuse, as well as carefully exploring 
the ravines which extended through the district, in 
order to satisfy himself that the best possible route had 
been selected. Mr. Stephenson was delighted with the 
novelty of the journey, the beauty of the scenery, and 
the industry of the population. His companions were 
entertained by his ample and varied stores of practical 
information on all subjects, and his conversation was 
full of reminiscences of his youth, on which he always 
delighted to dwell when in the society of his more inti- 
mate friends. The journey was varied by a visit to 
the coal-mines near Jemappe, where Stephenson exa- 
mined with interest the mode adopted by the Belgian 
miners of draining the pits, inspecting their engines and 
brakeing machines, so familiar to him in early life. 

The engineers of Belgium took the opportunity of 
Mr. Stephenson' s visit to their country to invite him to 
a magnificent banquet at Brussels. The Public Hall, in 
which they entertained him, was gaily decorated with 
flags, prominent amongst which was the Union Jack, 
in honour of their distinguished guest. A handsome 
marble pedestal, ornamented with his bust crowned 
with laurels, occupied one end of the room. The chair 
was occupied by M. Massui, the Chief Director of the 
National Railways of Belgium ; and the most eminent 
scientific men of the kingdom were present. Their 

2 c 2 


of tlir Kailicr <>f railways' \v;is of tlic 
enthusiastic dr><-ripiimi. Mi 1 . Stephenson \v;is 

v plcax'd \V 1 1 1 1 llic < M 1 1 1'1 ; I 1 1 ll 1 1< '1 ! 1 . \ol llic 

least interesting incident of Hi*' rYcnin'j; was his 
observing, when tlie dinner was about li:iH' over, ;i 

model of ;i locomotive engine placed upon tlte centre 
table, under :i 1 n HI n] 1 nil iircli. Tin-niii^ suddenly In 
his friend Sopwith, lie exclaimed, " Do you see tin- 
lln-ket?' It Avas indeed tlie model of that eric- 
bra ted rii^ine ; and Mr. Stephenson prized the com- 
pliment thus paid him, perhaps more than all the 
encomiums of the evening. 

The next day (April 5th) King Leopold invited him 
to a private interview at the palace. Accompanied lv 
Mr. Sopwith, he proceeded to Laaken, and was very 
cordially received by His Majesty. Nothing was more 
remarkable in Mr. Stephenson than his extreme ease 
and self-possession in the presence of distinguished and 
highly-educated persons. The king immediately entered 
into familiar conversation with him, discussing the rail- 
way project which had been the object of Mr. Stephen- 
son's visit to Belgium, and then the structure of the 
Belgian coal-fields,- -his Majesty expressing his sense 
of the great importance of economy in a fuel which had 
become indispensable to the comfort and well-being of 
society, which was the basis of all manufactures, and tin- 
vital power of railway locomotion. The subject was 
always a favourite one with Mr. Stephenson, and, 
encouraged by the king, he proceeded to describe to 
him the geological structure of Belgium, the original 
formation of coal, its subsequent elevation by volcanic 
forces, and the vast amount of denudation. In describ- 
ing the coal-beds he used his hat as a sort of model to 
illustrate his meaning ; and the eyes of the king were 
fixed upon it as he proceeded with his interesting de- 
scription. The conversation then passed to the rise and 
progress of trade and manufactures,- - Mr. Stephenson 


pointing out how closely they everywhere followed the 
coal, being mainly dependent upon it, as it were, for 
their very existence. 

The king seemed greatly pleased with the interview, 
and at its close expressed himself obliged by the in- 
teresting information which Mr. Stephenson had com- 
municated. Shaking hands cordially with both the 
gentlemen, and wishing them success in all their 
important undertakings, he bade them adieu. As 
they were leaving the palace Mr. Stephenson, bethink- 
ing him of the model by which he had just been 
illustrating the Belgian coal-fields, said to his friend, 
"By the bye, Sopwith, I was afraid the king would 
see the inside of my hat; it's a shocking bad one!". 
Little could George Stephenson, when brakesman at 
a coal-pit, have dreamt that, in the course of his life, 
he should be admitted to an interview with a monarch, 
and describe to him the manner in which the geological 
foundations of his kingdom had been laid ! 

Mr. Stephenson paid a second visit to Belgium in the 
course of the same year, on the business of the West 
Flanders Railway ; and he had scarcely returned from 
it ere he made arrangements to proceed to Spain, for 
purpose of examining and reporting upon a scheme 
then on foot for constructing " the Royal North of 
Spain Railway." A concession had been made by the 
Spanish Government of a line of railway from Madrid 
to the Bay of Biscay, and a numerous staff of engineers 
was engaged in surveying the proposed line. The 
directors of the Company had declined making the 
necessary deposits until more favourable terms had 
been secured ; and Sir Joshua Walmsley, on their 
part, was about to visit Spain and press the Govern- 
ment on the subject. Mr. Stephenson, whom he con- 
sulted, was alive to the difficulties of the office which 
Sir Joshua was induced to undertake, and offered 
to be his companion and adviser on the occasion,- 


declining 1< ivrvive anv tvrompnisr beyond the simple 

expenses of the journey. II i i-nld only arrange i<> h< 

absent I'm 1 six \vrrks. and set out from KiiLrland about 

tho middle of September, I s i.">. 

Thr parly was joined ;il Paris by Mr. Markcn/ir, tlir 
Contractor tbr llic Orleans and Tours Railway, tlicn 


iii course <t' construction, who took tlioni over tlic 
works, and accompanied them as far as 'Four-. Sir 
Joshua Walmsley was struck during the journey l>y 
Mr. Stephenson's close and accurate observation. Of 
course he was fully alive to any important engineering 
works which came in his way. Thus, in crossing the 
river Dordogne, on the road to Bordeaux, he was struck 
with the construction of the stupendous chain-bridge 
which had recently been erected there. Not satisfied 
with his first inspection, he walked back and again 
crossed the bridge. On reaching the shore he said : 
" This bridge cannot stand ; it is impossible that it can 
sustain any unusual weight. Supposing a large body 
of troops to march over it, there would be so much 
oscillation as to cause the greatest danger ; in fact it 
could not stand." He determined to write to the 
public authorities, warning them on the subject ; which 
he did. His judgment proved to be quite correct, for 
only a few years after, no improvement having been 
made in the bridge, a body of troops marching over it 
under the precise circumstances which he had imagined, 
the chains broke, the men were precipitated into the 

river, and many lives were lost. 


They soon reached the great chain of the Pyrenees, 
and crossed over into Spain. It was on a Sunday 
evening, after a long day's toilsome journey through 
the mountains, that the party suddenly found themselves 
in one ol those beautiful secluded valleys lying amidst 

the Western Pyrenees. A small hamlet lav before 

" i/ 

them, consisting of some thirty or forty houses and a 

O / t> 

fine old church. The sun was low on the horizon, and, 


under the wide porch, beneath the shadow of the 
church, were seated nearly all the inhabitants of the 
place. They were dressed in their holiday attire. 
The bright bits of red and amber colour in the dresses 


of the women, and the gay sashes of the men, formed 
a striking picture, on which the travellers gazed in 
silent admiration. It was something entirely novel 
and unexpected. Beside the villagers sat two vener- 
able old men, whose canonical hats indicated their 
quality as village pastors. Two groups of young 
women and children were dancing outside the porch 
to the accompaniment of a simple pipe ; and within a 
hundred yards of them, some of the youths of the 
village were disporting themselves in athletic exer- 
cises ; the whole being carried on beneath the fostering 
care of the old church, and with the sanction of its 
ministers. It was a beautiful scene, and deeply moved 
the travellers as they approached the principal group. 
The villagers greeted them courteously, supplied their 
present wants, and pressed upon them some fine melons, 
brought from their adjoining gardens. Mr. Stephenson 
used afterwards to look back upon that simple scene, 
and speak of it as one of the most charming pastorals he 
had ever witnessed. 

They shortly reached the site of the proposed railway, 
passing through Irun, St. Sebastian, St. Andero, and 
Bilbao, at which places they met deputations of the 
principal inhabitants who were interested in the sub- 
ject of their journey. At Raynosa Mr. Stephenson 
carefully examined the mountain passes and ravines 
through which a railway could be made. He rose 
at break of day, and surveyed until the darkness set 
in ; and frequently his resting-place at night was the 
floor of some miserable hovel. He was thus laboriously 
occupied for ten days, after which he proceeded across 
the province of Old Castile towards Madrid, surveying 
as he went. The proposed plan included the purchase 


of the Castile canal ; and that property was also surveyed. 
He next proceeded to I 1 ]! Kscnrial, situated at tlie fool 
of the Guadarama mountains, thnmn-li which he found 

tliat ii would le necessary to construct two formidable 


lunm-ls; added to wliicli lie ascertained tliat tlie country 
between Ml Kscorial and Madrid was of a very difficult 

and expensive character to work through. Taking the 
circunistances into account, and looking at the expected 
traffic on the proposed line, Sir Joshua Walmsley, acting 
under tlie advice of Mr. Stephenson, offered to construct 
the line from Madrid to the Bay of Biscay, only on con- 
dition that the requisite land was given the Company 
for the purpose ; that they should be allowed every 
facility for cutting such timber belonging the Crown 
as might be required for the purposes of the railway ; 
and also that the materials required from abroad for tlie 
construction of the line should be admitted free of duty. 
In return for these concessions the Company offered to 
clothe and feed several thousands of convicts while 
engaged in the execution of the earthworks. General 
Narvaez, afterwards Duke of Valencia, received Sir 
Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Stephenson on the subject 
of their proposition, and expressed his willingness to 
close with them ; but it was necessary that other influ- 
ential parties should give their concurrence before the 
scheme could be carried into effect. The deputation 
waited ten days to receive the answer of the Spanish 
government ; but no answer of any kind was vouchsafed, 
The authorities, indeed, invited them to be present 
at a Spanish bull-fight, but that was not quite the busi- 
ness Mr. Stephenson had gone all the way to Spain to 
transact ; and the offer was politely declined. The 
result was, that Mr. Stephenson dissuaded his friend 
from making the necessary deposit at Madrid. Be- 
sides, he had by this time formed an unfavourable 
opinion of the entire project, and considered that the 
traffic would not amount to one-eighth of the estimate. 


Mr. Stephenson was now anxious to be in England. 
During 1 the journey from Madrid he often spoke with 
affection of friends and relatives ; and when apparently 
absorbed by other matters, he would revert to what he 
thought might then be passing at home. Few inci- 
dents worthy of notice occurred on the journey home- 
ward, but one may be mentioned. While travelling 
in an open conveyance between Madrid and Yittoria, 
the driver urged his mules down hill at a dangerous 
pace. He was requested to slacken speed ; but sus- 
pecting his passengers to be afraid, he only flogged 
the brutes into a still more furious gallop. Observing 
this, Mr. Stephenson coolly said, " Let us try him on 
the other tack ; tell him to show us the fastest pace at 
which Spanish mules can go." The rogue of a driver, 
when he found his tricks of 110 avail, pulled up and pro- 
ceeded at a moderate rate for the rest of his journey. 

Urgent business required Mr. Stephenson' s presence 
in London on the last day of November. They travelled, 
therefore almost continuously, day and night ; and the 
fatigue consequent on the journey, added to the priva- 
tions voluntarily endured by the engineer while carrying 
on the survey among the Spanish mountains, began to 
tell seriously on his health. By the time he reached 
Paris he was evidently ill, but he nevertheless deter- 
mined on proceeding. He reached Havre in time for 
the Southampton boat ; but when on board, pleurisy 
developed itself, and it was necessary to bleed him 
freely. During the voyage, he spent his time chiefly 
in dictating letters and reports to Sir Joshua Walnisley, 
who never left him, and whose kindness on the occasion 
he gratefully remembered. His friend was struck by 
the clearness of his dictated composition, which exhibited 
a vigour and condensation which to him seemed mar- 
vellous. After a few weeks' rest at home, Mr. Stephen- 
son gradually recovered, though his health remained 
severely shaken. 


I A 

.E HIGH LEVhX BKIUGE. [By R. P Leitch.J 



THE career of George Stephenson was drawing to a 
close. He had for some time been gradually retiring 
from the more active pursuit of railway engineering, 
and confining himself to the promotion of only a 
few undertakings in which he took a more than ordi- 
nary personal interest. In 1840, when the extensive 
main lines in the Midland districts had been finished 
and opened for traffic, he publicly expressed his intention 
of withdrawing from the profession. He had reached 
sixty, and, having spent the greater part of his life in 
very hard work, he naturally desired rest and retirement 
in his old age. There was the less necessity for his con- 
tinuing " in harness," as Robert Steplienson was now in 
full career as a leading railway engineer, and his father 
had pleasure in handing over to him, with the sanction 
of the companies concerned, nearly all the railway 
appointments which he held. 


Robert Stephenson amply repaid his father's care. 
The sound education of which he had laid the founda- 
tions at Bruce's school at Newcastle, improved by his 
subsequent culture at Edinburgh College, but more than 
all by his father's example in application, industry, and 
thoroughness in all that he undertook, told powerfully 
in the formation of his character, not less than in the 

discipline of his intellect. His father had early im- 


planted in him habits of mental activity, familiarized 
him with the laws of mechanics, and carefully trained 
and stimulated his inventive faculties, the first great 
fruits of which, as we have seen, were exhibited in the 
triumph of the " Rocket ' at Rainhill. " I am fully 
conscious in my own mind," said the son, at a meeting 
of the Mechanical Engineers at Newcastle, in 1858, 
" how greatly my civil engineering has been regulated 
and influenced by the mechanical knowledge which I 
derived directly from my father ; and the more my 
experience has advanced, the more convinced I have 
become that it is necessary to educate an engineer in 
the workshop. That is, emphatically, the education 
which will render the engineer most intelligent, most 
useful, and the fullest of resources in times of difficulty." 
Robert Stephenson was but twenty-six years old 
when the performances of the " Rocket ' established the 
practicability of steam locomotion on railways. He was 
shortly after appointed engineer of the Leicester and 
Swairnington Railway ; after which, at his father's 
request, he was made joint engineer with himself in the 
engineering of the London and Birmingham Railway, 
and the execution of that line was afterwards almost 
entirely entrusted to him. The stability and excellence 
of the w^orks of that railway, the difficulties which had 
been successfully overcome in the course of its construc- 
tion, and the judgment which was displayed by Robert 
Stephenson throughout the whole conduct of the under- 
taking to its completion, established his reputation as an 


engineer; and his father could now !<>ok witli confidence 


and with pride upon liis son's achievements. From that 
time forward, lather and BOD worked together as one 
man, each jealous of llie oilier' s honour; and on ihe 
f'ai her' s retirement, it was generally recognized thai, in 
the sphere of railways, Robert Steplicnson was the 
foremost man, the safest guide, and the most active 


Robert Stephenson was subsequently appointed en- 
gineer of the Kastern Counties, the Northern and Eastern, 
the Blaekwall, and many other railways in the midland 
and southern districts. When the speculation of 1844 
set in, his services were, of course, greatly in request. 
Thus, in one session we find him engaged as engineer 
for not fewer than thirty-three new schemes. Projectors 
tli ought themselves fortunate who could secure his name, 
and he had only to propose his terms to obtain them. 
The work which he performed at this period of his life 
was indeed enormous, and his income was large beyond 
any previous instance of engineering gain. But much 
of his labour was heavy hackwork, of a very uninterest- 
ing character. During the sittings of the committees 
of Parliament, almost every moment of his time was 
occupied in consultations, and in preparing evidence or 
in giving it. The crowded, low-roofed committee- 
rooms of the old Houses of Parliament were altogether 
inadequate to accommodate the rush of perspiring pro- 
jectors for bills, and even the lobbies were sometimes 
choked with them. To have borne that noisome atmos- 
phere and heat would have tested the constitutions of 
salamanders, and engineers were only human. With 
brains kept in a state of excitement during the entire 
day, no wonder their nervous systems became unstrung. 
Their only chance of refreshment was during an occa- 
sional rush to the bun and sandwich stand in the lobby, 
though sometimes even that recourse failed them. 
Then, with mind and body jaded- -probably after under- 




going a series of consultations upon many bills after 
the rising of the committees- -the exhausted engineers 
would seek to stimulate nature by a late, perhaps a 
heavy, dinner. What chance had any ordinary con- 
stitution of surviving such an ordeal ? The consequence 
was, that stomach, brain, and liver were alike irre- 
trievably injured ; and hence the men who bore the 
heat and brunt of those struggles Stephenson, Brunei, 
Locke, and Errington--have already all died, compara- 
tively young men. 

In mentioning the name of Brunei, we are reminded 
of him as the principal rival and competitor of Robert 
Stephenson. Both were the sons of distinguished men, 
and both inherited the fame and followed in the foot- 
steps of their fathers. The Stephensons were inventive, 
practical, and sagacious ; the Brunels ingenious, ima- 
ginative, and daring. The former were as thoroughly 
English in their characteristics as the latter perhaps 
were as thoroughly French. The fathers and the sons 
were alike successful in their works, though not in the 
same degree. Measured by practical and profitable 
results, the Stephensons were unquestionably the safer 
men to follow. 

Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunei 
were destined often to come into collision in the course 
of their professional life. Their respective railway dis- 
tricts " marched ' with each other, and it became their 
business to invade or defend those districts, according as 
the policy of their respective boards might direct. The 
gauge fixed by Mr. Brunei for the Great Western 
Railway, so entirely different from that adopted by the 
Stephensons on the Northern and Midland lines, 1 was 

1 The original width of the coal 
tramroads ill the North virtuall} 7 ' de- 
termined the British gauge. It was 
the width of the ordinary road-track, 
not fixed after any scientific theory, 
but adopted simply because its use had 

already been established. George Ste- 
phenson introduced it without altera- 
tion on the Liverpool and Manchester 
llailway ; and the lines subsequently 
formed in the same district were laid 
down of the same width. Mr. Ste- 



I'mill the lirsl ;i !_iTr:it CailSe <l cdiitrlil loll. Hut Ml'. 

Brunei had al\\:iv> ;m aversion t<> follow ;uiy man's 

lr:nl : ;iinl that au<>th<T engineer had fixed the gan 
of n railway, orluiilt ;i bridge, or designed ;m engine,in 
one way, was of itself often a sufficienl reason \\iih him 

adopting an altogether differenl course. Roberl 

lirii-oii, on his part, though Irxs hold, was more 
practical, preferring to follow the old routes, and to 
nvad in ilir safe >t-ps of his lather. 

Mr. r>rmirl, however, determined that the Great 
Western should be a giant's road, and that travelling 
should, he conducted upon it at double speed. His am- 
bition was to make the best road that imagination could 
devise; whereas the main object of the Stephensons, 
both father and son, was to make a road that would pay. 
Although, tried by the Stephenson test, Brunei's mag- 
nificent road was a failure so far as the shareholders 
in the Great Western Company were concerned, the 
stimulus which his ambitious designs gave to mechanical 
invention at the time proved a general good. The 
narrow-gauge engineers exerted themselves to quicken 

phenson from the first anticipated the 
general extension of railways through- 
out England ; and one of the ideas 
with which he started was, the essen- 
tial importance of preserving such 
a uniformity as would admit of per- 
fect communication between them. 
When consulted about the gauge of 
the Canterbury and Whitstable, and 
Leicester and Swannington Railways, 
he said, " Make them of the same 
width : though they may be a long 
way apart uo\v, depend upon it they 
will be joined together sonic day." 
All the railways, therefore, laid down 
by himself and his assistants in the 
neighbourhood of Manchester, extend- 
ing from thence to London on the 
south, and to Leeds on the east, were 
constructed on the Liverpool and 
Manchester, or narrow gauge. Be- 
sides the Great Western Railway, 
where the gauge adopted was seven 
feet, the only other line on which a 

broader gauge than four feet eight 
and a-half inches was adopted was 
the Eastern Coimties, where it was 
five feet, Mr. Braithwaite, the engi- 
neer, being of opinion that an in- 
crease of three and a-half inches in 
the width of his line would cive him 


better space for the machinery of the 
locomotive. But when the northern 
and eastern extension of the same line 
was formed, which was to work into 
the narrow-gauge system of the Mid- 
land Railway, Mr. Robert Stephenson, 
its new engineer, strongly recom- 
mended the directors of the Eastern 
Counties line to alter their gauge ac- 
cordingly, for the purpose of seeming 
uniformity; and they adopted his re- 
commendation. Mr. Braithwaite him- 
self afterwards justified the wisdom of 
this step, and stated that he consi- 
dered the narrow gauge " infinitely 
superior to any other," more especially 
for passenger traffic. 


their locomotives to the utmost; they were improved 
and re-improved ; their machinery was simplified and 
perfected ; outside cylinders gave place to inside ; the 
steadier and more rapid and effective action of the 
engine was secured ; and in a few years the highest 
speed on the narrow-gauge lines went up from thirty to 
about fifty miles an hour. For this rapidity of progress 
we are in no small degree indebted to the stimulus im- 
parted to the narrow-gauge engineers by Mr. Brunei. 
And it is well for a country that it should possess men 
such as he, ready to dare the untried, and to venture 
boldly into new paths. Individuals may suffer from the 
cost of the experiments, but the nation, which is an 
aggregate of individuals, gains, and so does the world 
at large. 

It was one of the characteristics of Brunei to believe 
in the success of the schemes for which he was profes- 
sionally engaged as engineer ; and he proved this by 
investing his savings largely in the Great Western 
Railway, in the South Devon atmospheric line, and in 
the Great Eastern steamship, with what results are well 
known. Robert Stephenson, on the contrary, with cha- 
racteristic caution, towards the latter years of his life, 
avoided holding unguaranteed railway shares ; and 
though he might execute magnificent structures, such as 
the Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence, he was 
careful not to embark any portion of his own fortune in 
the ordinary capital of these concerns. In 1845, he 
shrewdly foresaw the inevitable crash that was about to 
follow the mania of that year ; and while shares were 
still at a premium he took the opportunity of selling out 
all that he had. He urged his father to do the same 
thing, but George's reply was characteristic. " No," 
said he ; "I took my shares for an investment, and not 
to speculate with, and I am not going to sell them now 
because folks have gone mad about railways." The 
consequence was, that he continued to hold the 60,000/. 


which he had invited in tlir .-lnuvs of various railways 

until liis drath, \vlirii they were ;ii once ^M out by liis 

sn. though ;tt ;> greal drprrrialion on their original cost. 

( )nr of I lie hardest buttles loii^lil 1 >et \vrni tin- Slephen- 

M-iis ;md I>nmel was for the railway between Newcastle 

;md Herwiek. forming part of the greal Kasi ( 1 >;i>t route 
to Seotland. As early as 1836, George Stephenson li;nl 
surveyed two lines to connect Edinburgh with New- 
castle : one by Berwick and Dunbar aloiio; tlie coast, 
;n id the other, more inland, by Carter Fell, up the vale 
of the Gala, to the northern capital. Two years later, 
he made a further examination of the intervening 
country, and again reported more decidedly than before 
in favour of the coast line. The inland route, however, 
was not without its advocates : Stephensoii's old friend, 
Nicholas Wood, heading the opposition to his proposed 
Coast railway. But both projects lay dormant for several 
years longer, until the completion of the Midland and 
other main lines as far north as Newcastle had the effect 
of again reviving the subject of the extension of the 
route as far as Edinburgh. 

On the 18th of June, 1844, the Newcastle and Dar- 
lington line an important link of the great main high- 
way to the north- -was completed and publicly opened, 
thus connecting the Thames and the Tyne by a continuous 
line of railway. On that day Mr. Stephenson and a 
distinguished party of railway men travelled by express 
train from London to Newcastle in about nine hours. 
It was a great event, and was worthily celebrated. The 
population of Newcastle held holiday ; and a banquet 
Liiven in the Assembly Rooms the same evening assumed 
the form of an ovation to Mr. Stephenson and his son. 
Thirty years before, in the capacity of a workman, he 
had been labouring at the construction of his first loco- 
motive in the immediate neighbourhood. By slow and 
laborious steps he had worked his way on, dragging the 
locomotive into notice, and raising himself in public 


estimation ; and at length he had victoriously esta- 
blished the railway system, and went back amongst his 
townsmen to receive their greeting. 

After the opening of this railway, the project of 
the East Coast line from Newcastle to Berwick was 
revived ; and George Stephenson, who had already 
identified himself with the question, and was intimately 
acquainted with every foot of the ground, was again 
called upon to assist the promoters with his judgment 
and experience. He again recommended as strongly 
as before the line he had previously surveyed ; and on 
its being adopted by the local committee, the necessary 
steps were taken to have the scheme brought before 
Parliament in the ensuing session. The East Coast 
line was not, however, to be allowed to pass without a 
fight. On the contrary, it had to encounter as stout 
an opposition as Stephenson had ever experienced. 

We have already stated that about this time the 
plan of substituting atmospheric pressure for locomotive 
steam-power in the working of railways, had become 
very popular. Many eminent engineers avowedly sup- 
ported atmospheric in preference to locomotive lines ; 
and there was a strong party in Parliament, headed by 
the Prime Minister, who were much disposed in their 
favour. Mr. Brunei warmly espoused the atmospheric 
principle, and his persuasive manner, as well as his 
admitted scientific ability, unquestionably exercised con- 
siderable influence in determining the views of many 
leading members of both Houses 011 the subject. Amongst 
others, Lord Howick, one of the members for Northum- 
berland, adopted the new principle, and, possessing great 
local influence, he succeeded in forming a powerful 
confederacy of the landed gentry in favour of Brunei's 
atmospheric railway through that county. 

George Stephenson could not brook the idea of seeing 
the locomotive, for which he had fought so many stout 
battles, pushed to one side, and that in the very county 

VOL. in. 2 D 


in winch its v;re;ii powers had lii-eii lirst developed, 

Nor did In- rch.xli the appearance .|' Mr. Brunei 98 the 

engineer of L>rd EJowick's scheme, m opposition to the 

line which li:id occupied his thoughts and l>ecn the olijeet 

of ln> .vireniioiis advocacy for so many years. When 


Stephenson fir>l nn-l llnim-l ill Xe\\ -east le. lie good- 
naturedly shook him l\ tin- c,||;ir. ;m<l nskcil \\'li;M 
Imsiiirx he hud north of the Tyiic'r' (Icm-^-r Lr;i\v 
him t<> understand th;it tlicy were t<> luivc ;i fiiir st;ind-ii]> 
fiu'lit for flic ground, jiiul, slinking luiiids Ixd'orc, tin- 
luittlc like Englishmen, they parted in ^-ood Ininioin-. 
A pultlie ineetiim- was held at Newcastle in the following 
December, wlien, attei- a lull discussion of the merits of 
the respective plans. Stephenson' s line was almost una- 
nimously adopted as the best. 

The rival projects went before Parliament in 1S4."). 
and a severe contest ensued. The display of ability and 
tactics on l>oth sides was great. Mr. Hudson and the 
Messrs. Stephenson were the soul of the struggle for the 
locomotive line, and Lord Howick and Mr. Brunei in 
support of the atmospheric system of working. Robert 
Stephenson was examined at great length as to the 
merits of the former, and Brunei at equally great length 
as to the merits of the latter. Mr. Brunei, in the course 
of his evidence, said that after numerous experiments, 
he had arrived at the conclusion that the mechanical 
contrivance of the atmospheric system was perfectly 
applicable, and he believed that it would likewise he 
more economical in most cases than locomotive power. 
"In short," said he, "rapidity, comfort, safety, and 
economy, are its chief recommendations." 

Notwithstanding the promise of Mr. Sergeant Wrang- 
ham, the counsel for Lord Howick's scheme, that the 
Northumberland atmospheric was to be " a respectable 
line, and not one that was to be converted into a road 
for the accommodation of the coal-owners of the district/' 
the locomotive again triumphed. The Stephenson Coast 


Line secured the approval of Parliament ; and the share- 
holders in the Atmospheric Company were happily 
prevented investing their capital in what would unques- 
tionably have proved a gigantic blunder. For, less than 
three years later, the whole of the atmospheric tubes which 
had been laid down on other lines were pulled up, and the 
materials sold- -including Mr. Brunei's immense tube on 
the South Devon Railway 1 - to make way for the working 
of the locomotive engine. George Stephensoii's first 
verdict of " It won't do," was thus conclusively con- 

Robert Stephenson used afterwards to describe with 
great gusto an interview which took place between Lord 
Howick and his father, at his office in Great George 
Street, during the progress of the bill in Parliament. 
His father was in the outer office, where he used to 
spend a good deal of his spare time ; occasionally taking 
a quiet wrestle with a friend when nothing else was 
stirring. 2 On the day in question, George was standing 
with his back to the fire, when Lord Howick called to 
see Robert. Oh ! thought George, he has come to try 
and talk Robert over about that atmospheric gimcrack ; 
but I'll tackle his Lordship. " Come in, my Lord," said 
he, " Robert's busy ; but I'll answer your purpose quite 
as well ; sit down here, if you please." George began, 
" Now, my Lord, I know very well what you have come 
about : it's that atmospheric line in the north ; I will 
show you in less than five minutes that it can never 
answer." " If Mr. Robert Stephenson is not at liberty, 
I can call again," said his Lordship. " He's certainly 

1 During the last half-year of the 
atmospheric experiment on this line, 
in 1848, the expenditure exceeded the 
gross income (26,782?.) by 2487?., or 
about 9f per cent, excess of working- 
expenses beyond gross receipts. 

2 " When my lather came about 
the office," said Robert, " he some- 
times did not well know what to do 
with himself. So he used to invite 

Bidder to have a wrestle with him, 
for old acquaintance' sake, And the 
two wrestled together so often, and 
had so many ' falls ' (sometimes 1 
thought they would bring the house 
down between them), that they broke 
half the chairs in my outer office. I 
remember once sending my lather in 
a joiner's bill of about "21. 10s. for 
mending broken chairs." 

2 D 



occupied on iin|nirt;int l>iisiin-ss juM :it present," was 
George's answer, "hut I ran id) 1 you far hritn- tli;m h<- 

i 1 * * 

c;ui \\ lini Qonsense the atmospheric system is: Robert's 


!_i-ood-natmvd. von see, and if your Lordship were to g<-t 

;ilon r sidr of liim YOU nii'_rht talk Inm over; so YOU 


havr hccii quilt- lucky iii mrrting with me. Now, jusl 
look ;ii tin- i|iir>tin of expense," and then In- pro- 
ceeded in his strung Doric to explain his views in detail, 

until Lord Ilowirk could st;m<l it no lonpT, ;ind lie n 
;nnl Avulkcil t<w;irds tlie door. GcnrpJ followed liini 
down stnirs. to iinisli liis demolition of the atmospheric 
system, ;md Ins parting words were, " You in;iy t;d- 

inv word for it, my Lord, it will never answer," George 

nfKTwards told liis son with glee of "the settler' he 
had pven Lord Howick. 

So closely were the Stephensons identified witii this 
measure, and so great was the personal interest which 
they were both known to take in its success, that, on 
the news of the triumph of the hill reaching Newcastle. 
a >ort of general holiday took place, and the workmen 
belonging to the Stephenson Locomotive Factory, up- 
wards of eight hundred in number, walked in procession 
through the principal streets of the town, accompanied 
with music and banners. 

It is unnecessary to enter into any description of the 
works on the Newcastle and Berwick Railway. There 
are no fewer than a hundred and ten bridges of all sorts 
on the line some under and sonic over it, --the viaducts 
over the Ouseburn, the Wansbeck, and the Coquet, being 
of considerable importance. But by far the most for- 
midable piece of masonry work on this railway, is at its 
northern extremity, where it passes across the Tweed 
into Scotland, immediately opposite the formerly re- 
doubtable castle of Berwick. Not many centuries had 
passed since the district amidst which this bridge stands 
was the scene of almost constant warfare. Berwick was 
regarded as the key of Scotland, and was fiercely fought 


for, sometimes held by a Scotch and sometimes by an 
English garrison. Though strongly fortified, it was re- 
peatedly taken by assault. On its capture by Edward I., 
Boetius says, 17,000 persons were slain, so that its 
streets " ran with blood like a river." Within sight of 
the ramparts, a little to the west, is Halidoii Hill, where 
a famous victory was gained by Edward III., over the 
Scottish army under Douglas ; and there is scarcely a 
foot of ground in the neighbourhood but has been the 
scene of contention in days long past. In the reigns of 
James I. and Charles I., a bridge of fifteen arches was 
built across the Tweed at Berwick ; and in our own day 
a second railway-bridge of twenty-eight arches was 
built a little above the old one, but at a much higher 
level. The bridge built by the Kings, out of the national 
resources, cost 15,000/., and occupied twenty-four years 
and four months in the building ; the bridge built by 
the Railway Company, with funds drawn from private 
resources, cost 120,OOOL and was finished in three vears 


and four months from the day of laying the foundation 

This important viaduct consists of a series of twenty- 
eight semicircular arches, each 61 feet 6 inches in span, 
the greatest height above the bed of the river bekig 
126 feet. The whole is built of ashlar, with a hearting 
of rubble ; excepting the river parts of the arches, 
which are constructed with bricks laid in cement. The 
total length of the work is 2160 feet. The foundations 
of the piers were got in by coffer-dams in the ordinary 
way, !N asrnyth's steam-hammer being extensively used in 
driving the piles. The bearing piles, from which the 
foundations of the piers were built up, were each 
capable of carrying 70 tons. The work was designed 
by Robert Stephenson, and carried out by George 
Barclay Bruce, who acted as resident engineer. 

Another bridge, of still greater importance, necessary 
to complete the continuity of the East Coast route, was 


[By K. P. L i .-! bis original Drawing ] 


the masterwork erected by Robert Stephensoii between 
the north and south banks of the Tyne at Newcastle, 
commonly known as the High Level Bridge. Mr. R. 
W. Brandling- -to the public spirit and enterprise of 
whose family the prosperity of Newcastle has been in 
no small degree indebted, and who first brought to light 
the strong original genius of George Stephenson in 
connexion with the safety-lamp- -is entitled to the merit 
of originating the idea of the High Level Bridge, as it 
was eventually carried out, with a central terminus for 
the northern railways in the Castle Garth at Newcastle. 
He first promulgated the plan in 1841 ; and in the fol- 
lowing year it was resolved that Mr. George Stephenson 
should be consulted as to the most advisable site for the 
proposed structure. A prospectus of a High Level Bridge 
Company was issued in 1843, the names of George 
Stephenson and George Hudson appearing on the com- 
mittee of management, Mr. Robert Steplionson being 
the consulting engineer. The project was eventually 
taken up by the Newcastle and Darlington Railway 
Company, and an act for the construction of the bridge 
was obtained in 1845. 

The rapid extension of railways had given an extra- 
ordinary stimulus to the art of bridge-building ; the num- 
ber of such structures erected in Great Britain alone, 
since 1830, having been above twenty-five thousand, or 
more than all that previously existed in the country. In- 
stead of the erection of a single large bridge constituting, 
as formerly, an epoch in engineering, hundreds of 
extensive bridges of novel design were simultaneously 
constructed. The necessity which existed for carrying 
rigid roads, capable of bearing heavy railway trains at 
high speeds, over extensive gaps free of support, ren- 
dered it apparent that the methods which had up to that 
time been employed for bridging space were altogether 
insufficient. The railway engineer could not, like the 
ordinary road engineer, divert his road, and make choice 


of tin- )'<>! point 1'ui- erossiii"- ;i river or a valley. He 


HUM take -ucli "-round us lav in tin- line of Ins railway. 


IK- it bog, or mud, ur shifting sand. Navigable rivers 
and crowded thoroughfares had to he crossed withoul 

interruption to the existing traflie, sometimes by bridges 

:it rili-ht angles \^^ the river or road, sometimes l>\ arches 


more or less oblique. In many cases greal difficulty 

arose from the limited nature of the headway ; hut. as 


the le\-el of the original road must generally be pre- 
served. and that of the railway was in a measure fixed 
and determined, it was necessary to modify the form and 
structure of the bridge, in almost every case, in order to 
complv with the public requirements. Novel conditions 
were met by fresh inventions, and difficulties of the most 
unusual character were one after another successfully 
surmounted. In executing these extraordinary works. 
iron has been throughout the sheet-anchor of the engi- 
neer. In its various for] us of cast and wrought iron, it 
offered a valuable resource, where rapidity of execution, 
great strength, and cheapness of construction in the first 
instance, were elements of prime importance ; and by its 

skilful use, the railwav architect was enabled to achieve 


results which thirty years ago would scarcely have been 
thought possible. 

In many of the early cast-iron bridges the old form of 
the arch was adopted, the stability of the structure 
depending wholly on compression, the only novel feature 
being the use of iron instead of stone. But in a large 
proportion of cases, the arch, with the railroad over it, 
was found inapplicable in consequence of the limited 
headway which it provided. Hence it early occurred to 
George Stephenson, when constructing the Liverpool 
and Manchester Railway, to adopt the simple cast-iron 
beam for the crossing of several roads and canals along 
that line- -this beam resembling in some measure the 
lintel of the early temples- -the pressure on the abut- 
ments being purely vertical. One of the earliest 


instances of this kind of bridge was that erected over 
Water Street, Manchester, in 1829 ; after which, cast- 
iron girders, with their lower webs considerably larger 
than their upper, were ordinarily employed where the 
span was moderate ; and wrought-iron tie rods below 
were added to give increased strength where the span 
was greater. 

The next step was the contrivance of arched beams or 
bowstring girders, firmly held together by horizontal 
ties to resist the thrust, instead of abutments. Numerous 
excellent specimens of this description of bridge were 
erected by Robert Stephenson on the original London 
and Birmingham Railway ; but by far the grandest 
work of the kind- -perfect as a specimen of modern 
constructive skill- -was the High Level Bridge, which 
we owe to the genius of the same engineer. 

The problem was, to throw a railway bridge across the 
deep ravine which lies between the towns of Newcastle 
and Gateshead, at the bottom of which flows the navi- 
gable river Tyne. Along and up the sides of the valley 
-on the Newcastle bank especially- -run streets of old- 
fashioned houses, clustered together in the strange forms 
peculiar to the older cities. The ravine is of great 
depth- -so deep and so gloomy-looking towards dusk, 
that local tradition records that when the Duke of Cum- 
berland arrived late in the evening, at the brow of the 
hill overlooking the Tyne, on his way to Culloden, he 
exclaimed to his attendants, on looking down into the 
black gorge before him, " For God's sake, don't think of 
taking me down that coal-pit at this time of night ! 
The road down the Gateshead High Street is almost 
as steep as the roof of a house, and up the Newcastle 
Side, as the street there is called, it is little better. 
During many centuries the traffic north and south passed 
along this dangerous and difficult route, over the old 
bridge which crosses the river in the bottom of the val- 
ley. For some thirty years the Newcastle Corporation 



had discussed various methods of improving tin 1 eom- 
iiiiiiiic.-ilioii hrt \vet -ii the towns. Captain l>rown, Telford, 

and other engineers, were consulted, ;in<l the discussion 

miii'ht have gone 'ii tor thirty years more. l>nt tor the 
adveiil of railways, when ihr skill and enterprise to 

which they gave l>irth snrcdilv solved the difficulty, and 

l>rid'>vd tin- ravine. Tin 1 locality adroitly look advan- 


tagr of the opportunity, and insisted on the provision 
of a road for ordinary vehicles and foot- passe liters in 
addition to the railroad. In tins circumstance originated 
one of the striking peculiarities of the High Level 
Bridge, which serves two purposes, being a railway 
above and a carriage roadway underneath. 

r rhe breadth of the river at the point of crossing is 
515 feet, but the length of the bridge and viaduct 
between the (iateshead station and the terminus on the 
Newcastle side is about 4000 feet. It springs from 
Pipewell Gate Bank, on the south, directly across to 
Castle Grarth, where, nearly fronting the bridge, stands 
the fine old Norman keep of the New Castle, now 
nearly eight hundred years old, and a little beyond it is 
the spire of St. Nicholas Church, with its light and 
graceful Gothic crown; the whole forming a grand 

o t - J 

architectural group of unusual historic interest. The 
bridge passes completely over the roofs of the houses 
which fill both sides of tlie valley ; and the extraordinary 
height of the upper parapet, which is about 130 feet 
above the bed of the river, 1 offers a prospect to the 

* Notwithstanding the extraordinary 
height of the bridge, it is remarkable 
that si-vera! persons Lave thrown 
themselves from it into the river be- 
neath, and survived. One tipsy arti- 
s;ui, for a wager of a pot of drink, 
jumped from tlie parapet, and wns 
picked out of the water alive. Another 
person afterwards attempted suicide in 
the same manner, and was rescued. 
But the most singular accident oc- 
curred during the construction of the 

bridge, when a shipwright, at work 
upon the timber platform, stepping 
from the permanent tu the temporary 
work, set his foot upon a loose plank, 
which canted over. Accidentally, 
however, a huge nail had been driven 
no one knew why into the end of 
a crossbearer, on which the temporary 
platform rested ; and this nail-head 
catching the leg of the man's fustian 
trowsers near the lower hem as he fell, 
held him suspended, head downwards, 



passing traveller the like of which is perhaps nowhere 
else to be seen. Far below are the queer chares and 
closes, the wynds and lanes of old Newcastle ; the water 
is crowded with pudgy, black, coal keels ; and, when 
there is a lull in the great smoke volcanos which usually 
obscure the sky, the funnels of steamers and the masts 
of the shipping may be seen far down the river. The 
old bridge lies so far beneath that the passengers 
crossing it seem like so many bees passing to and fro. 

The first difficulty encountered in building the bridge 
was in securing a solid foundation for the piers. The 
dimensions of the piles to be driven were so huge, that 
the engiiieer found it necessary to employ some extra- 
ordinary means for the purpose. He called Nasmyth's 
Titanic steam-hammer to his aid- -the first occasion, w r e 
believe, on which this prodigious power was employed 
in bridge pile-driving. 1 A temporary staging was 
erected for the steam-engine and hammer apparatus, 
which rested on two keels, and, notwithstanding the 
newness and stiffness of the machinery, the first pile 
was driven on the 6th of October, 1846, to a depth of 
32 feet, in four minutes. Two hammers of 30 cwt. 
each were kept in regular use, making from 60 to 70 
strokes per minute ; and the results were astounding to 
those who had been accustomed to the old style of 
pile-driving by means of the ordinary pile-frame, 
consisting of slide, ram, and monkey. By the old 

swinging to and fro, gazing at the 
river a hundred feet beneath him. 
The man's comrades ran to his assist- 
ance, and placing a ladder from the 
lower 'bridge, they with difficulty res- 
cued him from his perilous position. 
Being a devout Methodist, the ship- 
wright attributed his preservation to 
the direct interposition of Providence 
in his behalf. In the course of about 
a week, however, a tailor's advertise- 
ment appeared in the local papers, 
containing a letter from the rescued 
workman himself, in which he gave 

the sole credit to the trowsers by which 
he had been suspended. On another 
tailor publishing his claim to the merit 
of having made them, a controversy 
between the tailors ensued, which may 
possibly remain unsettled to this day. 
1 This work was not executed with- 
out dismal forebodings on the part of 
some of the Gateshead people ; one of 
whom, on hearing the pile-driving ma- 
chine at work on the foundations, was 
wont to ejaculate, " There goes another 
nail in the coffin of Gateshead ! ' : 


, tlie pile was driven l>\ a comparatively small 
mass of iron descending with great velocity from ;i 
considerable height- tin- vdocitv behi!_r in excess and 

( ' ' 

the mass deficient, and calculated, like llie momentum 
of a cannon ball, ratlicr for dest met ive tliaii impulsive 
action. In the case of tlie steam pile-driver, ( "> the 
contrary, the whole weight of a heavy mass is delivered 
rapidly upon a driving-block of several tons weight 
placed directly over the head of the pile, the weighl 
nr\vr ceasing, arid the blows being repeated at the rate 
of a blow a second, until the pile is driven home. It is 
a curious fact, that the rapid strokes of the steam-hammer 
evolved so much heat, that on many occasions the pile- 
head burst into flames during the process of driving. 
The elastic force of steam is the power that lifts the 
ram, the escape permitting its entire force to fall upon 
the head of the driving block; while the steam above 
the piston on the upper part of the cylinder, acting as a 
buffer or recoil-spring, materially enhances the effect of 
the downward blow. As soon as one pile was driven, 
the traveller, hovering overhead, presented another, and 
down it went into the solid bed of the river, with as 
much ease as a lady sticks pins into a cushion. By the 
aid of this formidable machine, what was formerly 
among the most costly and tedious of engineering 
operations, was rendered simple, easy, and economical. 

When the piles had been driven and the coffer-darns 
formed and puddled, the water within the enclosed 
space was pumped out by the aid of powerful engines, 
so as, if possible, to lay bare the bed of the river. Con- 
siderable difficulty was experienced in getting in the 
foundations of the middle pier, in consequence of the 
water forcing itself through the quicksand beneath as 
fast as it was removed. This fruitless labour went on 
for months, and many expedients were tried. Chalk 
was thrown in in large quantities, outside the piling, 
but without effect. Cement concrete was at last put 


within the coffer-dam, until it set, and the bottom was 
then found to be secure. A bed of concrete was laid 
up to the level of the heads of the piles, the foun- 
dation course of stone blocks being commenced about 
two feet below low water, and the building proceeded 
without further difficulty. It may serve to give an 
idea of the magnitude of the work, when we state that 
400,000 cubic feet of ashlar, rubble, and concrete were 
worked up in the piers, and 450,000 cubic feet in the 
land-arches and approaches. 

The most novel feature of the structure is the use of 
cast and wrought iron in forming the double bridge, 
which admirably combines the two principles of the 
arch and suspension ; the railway being carried over the 
back of the ribbed arches in the usual manner, while 
the carriage-road and footpaths, forming a long gallery 
or aisle, are suspended from these arches by wrought- 
iron vertical rods, with horizontal tie-bars to resist the 
thrust. The suspension - bolts are enclosed within 
spandril pillars of cast iron, which give great stiffness 
to the superstructure. This system of longitudinal and 
vertical bracing has been much admired, for it not only 
accomplishes the primary object of securing rigidity in the 
roadway, but at the same time, by its graceful arrange- 
ment, heightens the beauty of the structure. The 

CD t/ 

arches consist of four main ribs, disposed in pairs, with 
a clear distance between the two inner arches of 20 feet 
4 inches, forming the carriage-road, while between each 
of the inner and outer ribs there is a space of 6 feet 2 
inches, constituting the footpaths. Each arch is cast in 
five separate lengths or segments, strongly bolted 
together. The ribs spring from horizontal plates of 
cast iron, bedded and secured on the stone piers. All 
the abutting joints were carefully executed by machinery, 
the fitting being of the most perfect kind. In order to 
provide for the expansion and contraction of the iron 
arching, and to preserve the equilibrium of the piers 

11 1 


'-/' S' i f(vr !-' / 
1 i-C- J*AIL */ V . ' 


without disturbance or racking of the other parts oi tin- 
bridge, it was arranged that the ribs of every two 
adjoining arches resting on the same pier should be 
secured to the springing-plates by keys and joggles ; 
wlii 1st on the next piers upon either side the ribs 
remained free and were at liberty to expand or contract 
according to temperature a space being left for the 
purpose. Hence each arch is complete and independent 
in itself, the piers having simply to sustain their vertical 
pressure. The arches are six in number, of 125 feet 
span each ; the two approaches to the bridge being 
formed of cast-iron pillars and bearers in keeping with 
the arches. 

The result is a bridge that for massive solidity may 
be pronounced unrivalled. It is perhaps the most 
magnificent and striking of all the bridges to which 
railways have given birth, and has been worthily styled 
" the King of railway structures." It is a monument of 
the highest engineering skill of our time, with the 
impress of power grandly stamped upon it. It will also 
be observed, from Mr. Leitclr s masterly drawing, placed 
as the frontispiece of this book, that the High Level 


Bridge forms a very fine object in a picture of great 
interest, full of striking architectural variety and beauty. 
The bridge was opened on the 15th of August, 1849, 
and a few days after the royal train passed over it, 
halting for a few minutes to enable her Majesty to 
survey the wonderful scene below. In the course of the 
following year the Queen opened the extensive stone 
viaduct across the Tweed, above described, by which 
the last link was completed of the continuous line of 
railway between London and Edinburgh. Over the 


entrance to the Berwick station, occupying the site of 
the once redoubtable Border fortress, so often the deadly 
battle-ground of the ancient Scots and English, was 
erected an arch under which the royal train passed, 
bearing in large letters of gold the appropriate words, 
" The last act of the Union" 

The warders at Berwick no longer look out from the 
castle walls to descry the glitter of Southron spears. 
The bell-tower, from which the alarm was sounded of old, 
though still standing, is deserted ; the only bell heard 
within the precincts of the old castle being the railway 
porter's bell announcing the arrival or the departure 
of trains. You see the Scotch Express pass along the 
bridge and speed southward on the wings of steam. 
But no alarm spreads along the Border now. North- 
umbrian beeves are safe. Chevy-Chase and Otterburn 
are quiet sheep pastures. The only men at arms on the 
battlements of Alnwick Castle are of stone. Bamborough 
Castle has become an asylum for shipwrecked mariners, 
and the Norman Keep at Newcastle has been converted 
into a Museum of Antiquities. The railway has indeed 
consummated the Union. 





Wi: liave lastly to describe briefly another great 
undertaking, begun by George Stephenson, and taken 
np and completed by his son, in the course of which the 
latter carried out some of his greatest works- -we mean 
the Chester and Holyhead Railway, completing the 
railway connection with Dublin, as the Newcastle and 

Berwick line completed the connection with Edinburgh. 
It will thus be seen how closely Telford was followed 
by the Stephensons in perfecting the highways of their 
respective epochs; the former by means of turnpike 
roads, and the latter bv means of railways. 

tJ V 

George Stephenson surveyed a line from Chester to 
Holyhead in 1838, and at the same time reported on the 
line through North AVales to Port Dynllaen, proposed 
by the Irish Railway Commissioners. His advice was 
strongly in favour of adopting the line to Holyhead, 
as less costly and presenting better gradients. A public 
meeting was held at Chester, in January, 1839, in 
support of the latter measure, at which the Marquis of 
Westminster, Mr. Wilbraham, and other influential 
gentlemen, were present. Mr. Uiiiacke, the Mayor, 
in opening the proceedings, observed, that it clearly 
appeared that the rival line through Shrewsbury was 
(juite impracticable. Mr. Stephenson, he added, was 
present in the room, ready to answer any questions 
which might be put to him on the subject ; and 
" it would be better that he should be asked questions 
than required to make a speech ; for, though a very 


good engineer, he was a bad speaker." One of the 
questions then put to Mr. Stephenson related to the 
mode by which he proposed to haul the passenger 
carriages over the Menai Suspension Bridge by horse 
power ; and he was asked whether he knew the pressure 
the bridge was capable of sustaining. His answer was, 
that " he had not yet made any calculations ; but he 
proposed getting data which would enable him to arrive 
at an accurate calculation of the actual strain upon the 
bridge during the late gale. He had, however, no hesi- 
tation in saying that it was more than twenty times as 
much as the strain of a train of carriages and a locomo- 
tive engine. The only reason why he proposed to convey 
the carriages over by horses, was in order that he might, 
by distributing the weight, not increase the wavy mo- 
tion. All the train would be on at once ; but distri- 
buted. This he thought better than passing them linked 
together, by a locomotive engine." It will thus be 
observed that the practicability of throwing a rigid 
railway bridge across the Straits had not yet been 

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce passed resolutions 
in favour of Stephenson's line, after hearing his ex- 
planations of its essential features. The project, after 
undergoing much discussion, was at length embodied in 
an Act passed in 1844 ; and the work was brought to a 
successful completion by his son, with several important 
modifications, including the grand original feature of 
the tubular bridges across the Menai Straits and the 
estuary of the Conway. Excepting these great works, 
the construction of this line presented no unusual 
features ; though the remarkable terrace cut for the 
accommodation of the railway under the steep slope of 
Penmaeii Mawr is worthy of a passing notice. 

About midway between Conway and Bangor, Penmaen 
Mawr forms a bold and almost precipitous headland, at 

VOL. in. 2 E 



'n.\r. XIX, 

P [By Percivai Skelton, alter his original Drawing.] 

the base of which, in rough weather, the ocean dashes 
with great fury. There was not space enough between 
the mountain and the strand for the passage of the 
railway ; hence in some places the rock had to be 
blasted to form a terrace, and in others sua walls had 
to be built up to the proper level, on which to form 
an embankment of sufficient width to enable the road 
to be laid. A tunnel 10i chains in length was cut 
through the headland itself; and on its east and west 
ies the line was formed by a terrace cut out of the 
clilf, and by embankments protected by sea walls; tin 1 


terrace being three times interrupted by embankments 
in its course of about a mile and a quarter. The road 
lies so close under the steep mountain face, that it was 
even found necessary at certain places to protect it 
against possible accidents from falling stones, by means 
of a covered way. The terrace 011 the east side of the 


headland was, however, in some measure protected 
against the roll of the sea by the mass of stone run 


out from the tunnel, and forming a deep shingle bank 
in front of the wall. 

The part of the work which lies on the westward of 
the headland penetrated by the tunnel, was exposed to 
the full force of the sea ; and the formation of the road 
at that point was attended with great difficulty. AYhile 
the sea wall was still in progress, its strength was 
severely tried by a strong north-westerly gale, which 
blew in October, 1840, with a spring tide of 17 feet. 
On the following morning it w^as found that a large 
portion of the rubble was irreparably injured, and 200 
yards of the wall were then replaced by an open viaduct, 
with the piers placed edgeways to the sea, the openings 
between them being spanned by ten cast-iron girders 
each 42 feet long. This accident induced the engineer 
to alter the contour of the sea wall, so that it should 
present a diminished resistance to the force of the waves. 
But the sea repeated its assaults, and made further havoc 
with the work ; entailing heavy expenses and a complete 
reorganisation of the contract. Increased solidity was 
then given to the masonry, and the face of the wall under- 
went further change. At some points outworks were 
constructed, and piles were driven into the beach about 
15 feet from the base of the wall, for the purpose of 
protecting its foundations and breaking the force of the 
waves. The work was at length finished after about 
three years' anxious labour ; but Mr. Stephensoii con- 
fessed that if a long tunnel had been made in the first 
instance through the solid rock of Penmaen Mawr, a 

2 E 2 


saving of t'nm 'J.".nun/. t<> .'Ju.imu/. would liav- l>r.-n 
riVri-ted. Be also said he had arrived al the conclusion 

that in railwav works riin'ineiTs should endeavour as !;ir 

, ' 

as possible i avoid the necessity of contending \viili ili<- 
sea; 1 l>nt if he were ever again compelled to go within 

it- reach, lie would ad<pl, instead !' ivtailiiliLr \v;ills. ;ili 

oj.cii viaduct, plaeinir all tin- pier> edgeways to the force 

>|' the sea, and allowing tlic waves to break upon a 
natural slope of heaeli. II- was ready enough to admit 

tlic errors lie liad committed in the original design of 

tins work; but he said, lie had always gained more 
information from studying the causes of failures and 
endeavouring to surmount them, than he had done from 
ea>ily-won successes. Whilst many of the latter had 
been forgotten, the former were indelibly fixed in his 
memory . 

But by far the greatest difficulty which Robert 
Stephenson had to encounter in executing this railway, 
was in carrying it across the Straits of Menai and the 
estuary of the Conway. where, like his predecessor 
Telford when forming his high road through Xorth 
A Vales, he was under the necessity of resorting to new 
and altogether untried methods of bridge construction. 

At Menai the waters of the Irish Sea are perpetually 
vibrating along the precipitous shores of the Strait ; 
rising and falling from 20 to 25 feet at each successive 
tide ; the width and depth of the channel being such as 
to render it available for navigation by the largest ships. 
The problem was, to throw a bridge across this wide 
chasm a bridge of unusual span and dimensions of 
such strength as to be capable of bearing the heaviest 
loads at high speeds, and at such a uniform height 

1 The simple fact that in a heavy Mr. R. Stevenson (Edinburgh) regis- 

storrn the force of impact of the waves ; tered a force of three tons per square 

is from one and a-half to two tons per ; foot at Skerryvore, during a gale in 

square foot, must necessarily dictate the Atlantic, when the waves were 

the liK-atcst possible caution in ap- supposed to run twenty feet high. 
SO formidable an element. 




throughout as not in any way to interfere with the 
navigation of the Strait. From an early period, Mr. 
Stephenson had fixed upon the spot where the Britannia 
Rock occurs, nearly in the middle of the channel, as the 
most eligible point for 
crossing ; the water- 
width from shore to shore 
at high water there being 
about 1100 feet. 

The engineer's first 
idea was to construct the 
bridge of two cast iron 
arches, each of 350 feet 
span. There was no 
novelty in this idea ; for, 
as early as the year 1801, 
Mr. Rennie prepared a 
design of a cast-iron 
bridge across the Strait 
at the Swilly rocks, the 
great centre arch of 

which was to be 450 feet 
span ; and at a later 
period, in 1810, Telford 
submitted a design of a 
similar bridge at Inys-y- 
Moch, with a single cast-iron arch of 500 feet. But 
the same objections which led to the rejection of Reii- 
nie's and Telford's designs, proved fatal to Robert 
Stephenson' s, and his iron-arched railway bridge was 
rejected by the Admiralty. The navigation of the 
Strait was under no circumstances to be interfered 
with ; and even the erection of scaffolding from below, 
to support the bridge during construction, was not to 
be permitted. The idea of a suspension bridge was 
dismissed as inapplicable ; a degree of rigidity and 
strength, greater than could be secured by any bridge 


constructed on the principle "I suspension, being con- 
sidered indispi Qsable conditions of the proposed structure. 
Mr. Stephenson next considered the expediency <>l 

erecting a bridge 1>\ means of suspended centering, after 

< . i 

the ingenious method proposed byTelford in 1 S IO:' h\- 

whieh the archinu 1 was to he carried out I >y placing 
eijiial and corresponding voussoirs on opposite sidi-s of 

the pier at the same time, Ivinir them lo^vther hv 

horizontal tic-holts. The arching thus extended outwards 
;ch pier and held in equilibrium, Avould have 
connected at the crown with the extremity of the 
arch advanced in like manner from the adjoining- pier. 
It was however, found that this method of construc- 
tion was not applicable at the Con way ; and it was 
eventually abandoned. Various other plans Avere sng- 
g-'sted; but the whole question remained unsettled even 
down to the time Avhen the Company went before Par- 
liament, in 1844, for power to construct the propose. 1 
bridges. No existing kind of structure seemed to be 
capable of bearing the fearful extension to which rigid 
bridges of the necessary spans Arould be subjected ; and 
some new expedient of engineering therefore became 

MY. Stephenson was then led to reconsider a design 
which he had made in 1841 for a road bridge over the 
river Lea at Ware, with a span of ">0 feet,- -the 
conditions only admitting of a platform 18 or 20 inches 
thick. For this purpose a wrought-iron platform was 
designed, consisting of a series of simple cells, formed 
of boiler-plates riveted together with angle-iron. The 
bridge was not. however, carried out after this design, 
but was made of separate wrought-iron girders composed 
of riveted wrought-iron plates. 2 Recurring to his first 

1 See ' Lives of tin- Knuimrrs,' vol. in,u r . free his 'Account of the Con- 
ii. p. 445. It appears ihat Air. Fair- struction of the r>rit;iiiiii:i and Conway 
bairn su-'^ested. this idea in his letter Tubular Brid^-s, iVr.' London, 1849. 

^JtT? O ' 7 

to Mr. Stephenson, dated the 3rd Robert Stephenson's narrative of 

Jime, 1845, accompanied by a draw- the early history of the design, in 


idea of this bridge, Mr. Stephenson thought that a stiff 
platform might be constructed, with sides of strongly 
trussed frame-work of wrought-iron, braced together 
at top and bottom with plates of like material riveted 
together with angle-iron, after a method adopted by 
Mr. Rendel in stiffening the suspension bridge at Mon- 
trose with wooden trellis-work a few years before ; 
and that such platform might be suspended by strong 
chains on either side to give it increased security. " It 
was now," says Mr. Stephenson, " that I came to regard 
the tubular platform as a beam, and that the chains 
should be looked upon as auxiliaries." It appeared 
to him, nevertheless, that without a system of dia- 
gonal struts inside, which of course would have pre- 
vented the passage of trains through it, this kind of 
structure was ill-suited for maintaining its form, and 
would be very liable to become lozenge-shaped. Be- 
sides, the rectangular figure was deemed objection- 
able, from the large surface which it presented to the 

It then occurred to him that circular or elliptical 
tubes might better answer the intended purpose ; and 
in March, 1845, he gave instructions to two of his 
assistants to prepare drawings of such a structure, the 
tubes being made with a double thickness of "plate at 
top and bottom. The results of the calculations made 
as to the strength of such a tube, were considered so 
satisfactory, that Mr. Stephenson says he determined 
to fall back on a bridge of this description, on the 
rejection of his design of the two cast-iron arches 
by the Parliamentary Committee. Indeed, it became 
evident that a tubular wrought-iron beam was the only 
structure which combined the necessary strength and 
stability for a railway, with the conditions deemed 

Edwin Clark's ' Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges,' vol. i. p. 25. Lon- 
don, 1850. 


l for tin- prot.-riion of the oavigation. " I 
stood," says Mi-. Steplini-oii. "on the verge of ;i 
responsibility from \\ludi. I confess, I had nearly 

^liriink. Tin- construction <>!' a lulmlar l>eam of^udi 
pL^ant ie dimensions, "ii n platform elevated and sup- 

ported liY chains ;it slleh ;i height, did III l\\'>\ pre-mt 

it>elf ;is ;i diflieulty of ;i very i'<>rmidal>le nature. 

Reflection, bowever, ^iii>li^l UK- that the ])i'inci]ilrs 

iijMin \\-hich the idea AV;IS founded were nothing more 
tlian an extension of those dailv in use in iln- jn-oirssion 
of tin- cnu-ini'iT. Tlie method, moreover, of calculating 
the Mivimih of the structure Avhich I had adopted, was 
of the simplest and most elementary diameter; and 
whatever might be the form of the tube, the principle on 
which the calculations were founded was equally ap- 
plicable, and could not fail to lead to equally accurate 
results." Mr. Stephenson accordingly announced to 
the directors of the railway that he was prepared to 
carry out a bridge of this general description, and they 
adopted his views, though not without considerable 


While the engineer's mind was still occupied with 
the subject, an accident occurred to the Prince of Wales 
iron steamship, at Blackwall, which singularly corro- 
borated his views as to the strength of wrought-iron 
beams of large dimensions. \Vlieii this vessel was being 
launched, the cleet on the bow gave way, in consequence 
of the bolts breaking, and let the vessel down so that the 
bilge came in contact with the wharf, and she remained 
suspended between the water and the wharf for a length 
of about 110 feet, but without any injury to the plates 
of the ship ; satisfactorily proving the great strength of 
this form, of construction. Thus, Mr. Stephenson be- 
came gradually confirmed in his opinion that the most 

1 llobert Sii.-],liL-iiM)u's narrative in Clark's 'Britannia and Conway Tubular 
Bridges,' vol. i. r>. 27. 


feasible method of bridging the strait at Menai and the 
river at Conway was by means of a hollow beam of 
wrought iron. As the time was approaching for giving 
evidence before Parliament on the subject, it was neces- 
sary for him to settle some definite plan for submission 
to the committee. " My late revered father," says he, 
66 having always taken a deep interest in the various 
proposals which had been considered for carrying a rail- 
way across the Menai Straits, requested me to explain 
fully to him the views which led me to suggest the use 
of a tube, and also the nature of the calculations I had 
made in reference to it. It was during this personal 
conference that Mr. William Fairbairn accidentally 
called upon me, to whom I also explained the principles 
of the structure I had proposed. He at once acquiesced 
in their truth, and expressed confidence in the feasibility 
of my project, giving me at the same time some facts 
relative to the remarkable strength of iron steamships, 
and invited me to his works at Millwall, to examine the 
construction of an iron steamship which was then in 
progress." The date of this consultation was early in 
April, 1845, and Mr. Fairbairn states that, on that occa- 
sion, " Mr. Stephensoii asked whether such a design was 
practicable, and whether I could accomplish it : and it- 
was ultimately arranged that the subject should be in- 
vestigated experimentally, to determine not only the 
value of Mr. Stephensoii' s original conception (of a 
circular or egg-shaped wrought-iron tube, supported by 
chains), but that of any other tubular form of bridge 
which might present itself in the prosecution of my 
researches. The matter was placed unreservedly in my 
hands ; the entire conduct of the investigation was 
entrusted to me ; and, as an experimenter, I was to be 
left free to exercise my own discretion in the investiga- 
tion of whatever forms or conditions of the structure 
might appear to me best calculated to secure a safe 


passage across ihr Straiis." Mr. FairUiirn then pr<>- 

ceeded t<> musii-uri ;i Dumber <>f experimental models 
for the pur| H >e <>!' ii-Minir the strength <>f tiilu-s of 
differenl lorm-. The short period which elapsed, how- 
ever. he I'M re the hill was in committee, <lid imt admit of 

much prnLLTrss being made with those experiments : Imt 

the evidence in chief irivm h Mr. 


the subject. on the .~tli <>{' Mav following, it ;ij>]>e;irs that 
the iden whieli prevailed in his mind was that of a 
brid.uv witli openings of 450 feet (afterwards increased 
to -l(i() feet); with a roadway formed of a hollow 
wrought-iron beam, about 25 feet in diameter, pre- 
senting a rigid platform, suspended by chains. At the 
same time, he expressed the confident opinion that a 
tube of wrought iron would possess sufficient strength 
and rigidity to support a railway train running inside 
of it without the help of the chains. 

While the bill was still in progress, Mr. Fairbairn 
proceeded with his experiments. He first tested tubes 
of a cylindrical form, in consequence of the favourable 
opinion entertained by Mr. Stephenson of tubes in that 
shape, extending them subsequently to those of an ellip- 
tical form. 2 He found tubes thus shaped more or less 
defective, and proceeded to test those of a rectangular 
kind. After -the bill had received the roval assent on 


the 30th of June, 1845, the directors of the company, 
with great liberality, voted a sum for the purpose of 
enabling the experiments to be prosecuted, and upwards 
of GOOO/. were thus expended to make the assurance 
of their engineer doubly sure. Mr. Fairbairn' s tests 


1 'Account of the Construction of 
the Britannia, and Comvay Tubular 
Bridges.' By W. Fairbairn, C.E. Lon- 
don, ""1S49. 

2 Mr. Stqdicnson continued to hold 
that the elliptical tube was the ri^ht 
idea, and that sufficient justice had 
not been done to it. A yr;ir or two 

before his death Mr. Stephenson re- 
marked to the author, that had the 
same arran-cnicnl for stilleninji; been 
adopted to which the oblong rectan- 
gular tubes owe a great part of their 
strength, a very different result would 
have been obtained. 


were of the most elaborate and eventually conclusive 


character, bringing to light many new and important 
facts of great practical value. The due proportions and 
thicknesses of the top, bottom, and sides of the tubes 
were arrived at after a vast number of separate trials ; 
one of the results of the experiments being the adoption 
of Mr. Fairbairn's invention of rectangular hollow cells 
in the top of the beam for the purpose of giving it the 
requisite degree of strength. About the end of August 
it was thought desirable to obtain the assistance of a 
mathematician, who should prepare a formula by which 
the strength of a full-sized tube might be calculated 
from the results of the experiments made with tribes of 
smaller dimensions. Professor Hodgkinson was accord- 
ingly called in, and he proceeded to verify and confirm the 
experiments which Mr. Fairbairn had made, and after- 
wards reduced them to the required formulae ; though 
Mr. Fairbairn states that they did not appear in time to 
be of any practical service in proportioning the parts of 
the largest tubes. 1 

Mr. Stephensoii's time was so much engrossed with 
his extensive engineering business that he was in a 
great measure precluded from devoting himself to the 
consideration of the practical details, which he felt 
were safe in the hands of Mr. Fairbairn- -" a gentle- 
man," as he stated to the committee of the Com- 
mons, " whose experience was greater than that of any 
other man in England." The results of the experi- 
ments were communicated to him from time to time, 
and were regarded by him as exceedingly satisfactory. 
It would appear, however, that while Mr. Fairbairn 
urged the sufficient rigidity and strength of the tubes 
without the aid of chains, Mr. Stephenson had not quite 
made up his mind upon the point. Mr. Hodgkinson, also, 

1 Fairbairn's ' Account,' p. 22. 




\v;is Mmnirly incline. 1 t<> retain tlinu. 1 Mr. Fairbairn 


held ili.-ii ii was <|nite practicable i<> m;il' th< i tubes 

" >ulhei.-ntl\ strong 1 sustain n<>1 only their own weight, 
but, in addition t< thai l<>ad. 'jono tone equally distri- 
buted over the surface nt'the platform,- n load im times 
greater than they will ever ! ealled upon to support. 
It was thoroughly characteristic <>f Mr. Stephenson, 

and !' tin- caution with wln'rli IK.- proeeeded in every 
step of tin's greal undertaking- -probing every inch of 
the ground l>c fore In- M't down his foot upon it- -that In 1 
should, early in 1846, have appointed his able assistant, 
Mr. Edwin Clark, to scrutinise carefully the results of 
everv experiment, whether made by Mr. Fairbairn or 
Mr. Hodgkinson, and subject them to a separate and 
independent analysis before finally deciding upon the 
form or dimensions of the structure, or upon any mode 
of procedure connected with it. That great progress 
had been made by the two chief experimenters before 
the end of 1846, appears from the papers read by Messrs. 
Fairbairn and Hodgkinson before the British Association 
at Southampton in September of that year. In the 
course of the following month Mr. Stephenson had be- 
come fully satisfied that the use of auxiliary chains was 

1 The following passage occurs in 
Robert Stephenson's Report to the di- 
rectors of the Chester and Holyhead 
Railway, dated the 9th February, 
1846: "You will observe in 'Mr. 
Fairbairn's remarks, that he contem- 
plates the feasibility of stripping tin- 
tube entirely of all the chains that 
may be required in the erection of the 
bridge; whereas, on the other hand, 
Mr. Hodgkinson thinks the chains 
will be an essential, or at all events a 
useful auxiliary, to give the tube the 
requisite strength and rigidity. This, 
however, will be determined by the 
proposed additional experiments, and 
does not interfere with the construction 
of the masonry, which is designed so 
as to admit of the tube, with or with- 

out chains. The application of chains 
as an auxiliary has occupied much of 
my attention, and I am satisfied that 
the ordinary mode of applying them 
to suspension bridges is wholly inad- 
missible in the present instance; if, 
therefore, it be hereafter found neces- 
sary or desirable to employ them in 
conjunction with the tube, another 
mode of employing them must be de- 
vised, as it is absolutely essential to 
attach them in such a manner as to 
preclude the possibility of the smallest 
oscillation. In the accomplishment 
of this I see no difficulty whatever ; 
and the designs have been arranged 
accordingly, in order to avoid any 
further delay." 


unnecessary, and that the tubular bridge might be made 
of such strength as to be entirely self-supporting. 1 

While these important discussions were in progress, 
measures were taken to proceed with the masonry of the 
bridges simultaneously at Conway and the Menai Strait. 
The foundation-stone of the Britannia Bridge was laid 
by Mr. Frank Forster, the resident engineer, on the 
10th of April, 1846 ; and on the 12th of May following 
that of the Conway Bridge was laid by Mr. A. M. Ross, 
resident engineer at that part of the works. Suit- 
able platforms and workshops were also erected for 
proceeding with the punching, fitting, and riveting of 
the tubes ; and when these operations were in full pro- 
gress, the neighbourhood of the Conway and Britannia 
Bridges presented scenes of extraordinary bustle and 
industry. On the llth of July, 1847, Mr. Clark in- 
forms Mr. Stephenson that " the masonry gets on rapidly. 
The abutments on the Anglesey side resemble the founda- 
tions of a great city rather than of a single structure, and 
nothing appears to stand still here." About 1500 men 
were employed on the Britannia Bridge alone, and they 
mostly lived upon the ground in wooden cottages erected 
for the occasion. The iron plates were brought in ship- 
loads from Liverpool, Anglesey marble from Penmon, 
and red sandstone from Runcorn, in Cheshire, as wind 
and tide, and shipping and convenience, might deter- 
mine. There was an unremitting clank of hammers, 
grinding of machinery, and blasting of rock, going 

1 In a letter of Mr. Fairbairn to Mr. adopt measures, calculated not only 

Stephenson, dated July 18th, 1846, to establish the principle as a triumph 

he says : " To get rid of the chains of art, but what is of infinitely more 

will be a desideratum ; and I have importance to the shareholders, the 

made the tube of such strength, and 
intend putting it together upon such a 
principle, as will insure its carrying 
a dead weight, equally distributed 
over its hollow surface, of 4000 tons. 

saving of a large sum of money, 
nearly equal to half the cost of the 
bridge ? I have been ably assisted by 
Mr. Clark in all these contrivances ; 
but in a matter of such importance 

With a bridge of such powers, what we must have your sanction and 

have we to fear ? and why, in the support."- Mr. Fairbairn's ' Account,' 

name of truth and in the face of con- p. 93. 
elusive facts, should we hesitate to 

t30 'I'llK l'.i;i'r.\N.\IA I;I;IIMJK. CHAP. XIX. 

on from niornm"- till ni^lii. In fitting tlir Britannia 


mhes together, not le-> than 2, ooo, (MM) of holts were 
riveted, weighing some 'MM) ton-. 

The P>ritannia Uridge consists of two independent 
continuous tubular beams, eadb I ~> 1 1 feet in length, and 
radi weiv;hin!_r Kiso tons, independenl of the- cast-iron 

< ' 1 

frames inserted at their hearings on tlic masonry of the 


towers. These innnense heams are supported ;it live 
places, namely, on the abutments ami on three towers, 
tin- central ol' which is known as the (ireat Britannia 
Tower, 230 feet high, built on a rock in the middle of the 
Strait. The side lowers are 18 feet less in height than 
the central one, and the abutments 35 feet lower than 
the side towers. The design of the masonry is such as 
to accord with the form of the tubes, feeing somewhal 
of an Kirvptian character, massive and gigantic rather 
than beautiful, but bearing the unmistakable impress of 

The bridge has four spa us,- -two of 460 feet over the 
water, and two of 230 feet over the land. The weight 
of the longer spans, at the points where the tubes repose 

on the masoiirv, is not less than 1587 tons. On the 


centre tower the tubes lie solid ; but on. the land towers 
and abutments they lie on roller-beds, so as to allow of 
expansion and contraction. The road within each tube 
is 15 feet wide, and the height varies from 23 feet at 
the ends to 30 feet at the centre. To give an idea of 
the vast size of the tubes by comparison with other 
structures, it may be mentioned that each length con- 
^tituting the main spans is twice as long as London 
Monument is high ; and if it could be set on end in 
St. Paul's Churchyard, it would reach nearly 100 feet 
above the cross. 

The Comvay Bridge is, in most respects, similar to 
the Britannia, consisting of two tubes, of 400 feet span, 
placed side bv side, each weighing 1180 tons. The 

L * 

principle adopted in the construction of the tubes, and 





the mode of floating and raising them, were nearly the 
same as at the Britannia Bridge, though the general 
arrangement of the plates is in many respects different. 

It was determined to construct the shorter outer tubes 
of the Britannia Bridge on scaffoldings in the positions 
in which they were permanently to remain, and to erect 
the larger tubes upon wooden platforms at high-water- 
mark on the Caernarvon shore, from whence they were 
to be floated in pontoons,- -in like manner as Reiinie had 
floated into their places the centerings of his Waterloo 
and other bridges, and then raised into their proper 
places by means of hydraulic power, after a method ori- 
ginally siigges led by Mr. Edwin Clark, to whose valuable 


history <>Hhe construction of the Britannia :nnl ( 1 on\y;i\ 

Undoes we \vmild refer the ivsider l<>r lull details 
sis to the methods of construction employed in the-- 
extraordinary works. 

The llnatinv; of the tubes on pontoons, IVoin the places 

where they h;id been constructed in the IVCC-M-S 111 the 


masonry of the towers, up which they were to lie hoisted 
to the positions they were permanently to occupy, was 
;in anxious mid exciting operation. The first part of thi> 
process was performed at Conway, where Mr. Stephen- 
son directed it in person, assisted by Captain Claxton, 
Mr. Brunei, and other engineering friends. On the 6th 
March, 1848, the pontoons bearing the first great tube 
of the up-line were floated round quietly and majesti- 
cally into their place between the towers in about twenty 
minutes. Unfortunately, one of the sets of pontoons 
had become slightly slued by the stream, by which the 
Con way end of the tube was prevented from being 

brought home ; and five anxious days to all concerned 

i t/ 

intervened before it could be set in its place. In 
the mean time, the presses and raising machinery had 
been fitted in the towers above, and the lifting process 
was begun on the 8th of April, when the immense mass 
was raised 8 feet, at the rate of about 2 inches a minute. 
On the 16th, the tube had been raised and finally 
lowered into its permanent bed ; the rails were laid 
through it ; and, on the 1 8th, Mr. Stephenson passed 
through w r ith the first locomotive. The second tube was 
proceeded with on the removal of the first from the 
platform, and was completed and floated in seven 
months. The rapidity with which this second tube was 
constructed was in no small degree owing to the Jac- 
quard punching-inachine, contrived for the purpose by 
Mr. Roberts, of Manchester. This tube was finally fixed 
in its permanent bed on the 2nd of January, 1849. 

The floating and fixing of the great Britannia tubes 
was a still more formidable enterprise, though the ex- 



.WAT BRIDGE. [By Percival Skeiton.j 

perience gained at Conway rendered it easy compared 
with what it otherwise would have been. Mr. Stephen- 
son superintended the operation of floating the first in 
person, giving the arranged signals from the top of the 
tube 011 which he was mounted, the active part of the 
business being performed by a numerous corps of sailors, 
under the immediate direction of Captain Claxton. 
Thousands of spectators lined the shores of the Strait 
on the evening of the 19th of June, 1849. On the land 
attachments being cut, the pontoons began to float off; 
but one of the capstans having given way from the too 
great strain put upon it, the tube was brought home 
again for the night. By next morning the defective 
capstan was restored, and all was in readiness for another 
trial. At half-past seven in the evening the tube was 


2 F 


;ill<i:it. Mini llir pOntOOHS swilliir out into the current like 
M Uiolislrr pendllllim, lirld stradv I>V ilic slion- Lrilldr- 

iines, hiit increasing in SJMMM! to Minuet M fearful extent 

MS tllt-V In-Mivil their destined pl;irr lrl\Verli tllC pMT>. 

-The success of this operation," says Mr. Clark, " de- 
pended mainly on properly striking tlie'lmtt' U-neath 
the Anglesey tower, on which, MS upon M centre, the 

tiil>e wa^ to l>e veered round into its position across tin' 
opening. Tliis position AVMS determined l>y a 12-indi 
lino, Avliicli AVMS to be paid out to a fixed mark from the 
Llaniair capstan. The coils of the rope unfortunately 
over-rode each other upon this capstan, so that it could 
not be paid out. In resisting the motion of the tube, 
the capstan was bodily dragged out of the platform by 
the action of the palls, and the tube was in imminent 
danger of being carried away by the stream, or the 
pontoons crushed upon the rocks. The men at the 
capstan were all knocked down, and some of them 
thrown into the water, though they made every exertion 
to arrest the motion of the capstan-bars. In this dilemma 
Mr. Charles Rolfe, who had charge of the capstan, with 
great presence of mind, called the visitors on shore to 
his assistance ; and handing out the spare coil of the 
12-inch line into the field at the back of the capstan, it 
was carried with great rapidity up the field, and a crowd 
of people, men, women, and children, holding on to this 
huge cable, arrested the progress of the tube, which was 
at length brought safely against the butt and veered 
round. The Britannia end was then drawn into the 
recess of the masonry by a chain passing through the 
tower to a crab on the far side. The violence of the 
tide abated, though the wind increased, and the Anglesey 
end was drawn into its place beneath the corbelling in 
the masonry ; and as the tide went down, the pontoons 
deposited their valuable cargo on the welcome shelf at 
each end. The successful issue was greeted by cannon 
from the shore and the hearty cheers of many thousands 


of spectators, whose sympathy and anxiety were but too 
clearly indicated by the unbroken silence with which 
the whole operation had been accompanied." 1 By mid- 
night all the pontoons had been got clear of the tube, 
which now hung suspended over the waters of the Strait 
by its two ends, which rested upon the edges cut in the 
rock for the purpose at the base of the Britannia and 
Anglesey towers respectively, up which the tube had 
now to be lifted by hydraulic power to its permanent 
place near the summit. The accuracy with which the 
gigantic beam had been constructed may be inferred 
from the fact that, after passing into its place, a clear 
space remained between the iron plating and the rock 
outside of it of only about three-quarters of an inch ! 

Mr. Stephenson's anxiety was, of course, very great 
up to the time of performing this trying operation. 
When he had got the first tube floated at Conway, and 
saw all safe, he said to Captain Moorsom, " Now I shall 
go to bed." But the Britannia Bridge was a still more 
difficult enterprise, and cost him many a sleepless 
night. Afterwards describing his feelings to his friend 
Mr. Grooch, he said : " It was a most anxious and 
harassing time with me. Often at night I would lie 
tossing about, seeking sleep in vain. The tubes filled 
my head. I went to bed with them and got up with 
them. In the grey of the morning, when I looked 
across the Square, 2 it seemed an immense distance across 
to the houses on the opposite side. It was nearly the 
same length as the span of my tubular bridge ! ' When 
the first tube had been floated, a friend observed to him, 
" This great work has made you ten years older." " I 
have not slept sound," he replied, " for three weeks." Sir 
F. Head, however, relates, that when he revisited the 
spot on the following morning, he observed, sitting on a 

1 ^The Britannia and Conway Tu- 
bular Bridges.' By Edwin Clark. 

2 ISTo. 34, Gloucester Square, Hyde 
Park, where he lived. 

Vol. II. p. 683-4. 

2 F 2 

436 I.H-TINi; OF Till; TUBES, CHAP. XIX. 

platform overlooking tin- suspended inl>t>, ;i gentleman, 

reclining entirely l>v himself, smoking 1 ;i n^-ar, ;m<l 

<^ i 

gazing, as it' indolently, at 'he aerial gallery beneath 

liini. Ii was ili'- engineer himself, contemplating his 
new-born child. lie had strolled down tn>m tin- neigh- 
bouring: village, after Ins iirst sound ;md ivfrc-liiii"- 


>!rep for weeks, to behold in sunshine and solitude, thai 
which (luring ;i weary period of gestation li;id hem 
either mysteriously moving in his brain, or, like n vision 


sometimes <>f g 1 omen. ;md sometimes of evil- had. 

by night us well as by day, been flitting across his mind. 

The next process Avas the lifting of tlie tube into its 
place, which was performed very deliberately and cau- 
tiously. It was raised by powerful hydraulic press<-. 
only a few feet at a time, and carefully under-built, before 
being raised to a farther height. When it had been goi 
up by successive stages of this kind to about 24 feet, an 
extraordinary accident occurred, during Mr. Steplienson's 
absence in London, wbicli he afterwards described to tin- 
author in as nearly as possible tlie following words :- 
" In a work of such novelty and magnitude, you may 
readily imagine how anxious I was that every possible 

t/ t/ _L 

contingency should be provided for. Where one chain 
or rope was required, I provided two. I was not satisfied 
with 'enough :' I must have absolute security, as far as 
that was possible. I knew the consequences of failure 
would be most disastrous to the Company, and that the 
wisest economy was to provide for all contingencies at 
whatever cost. AVhen the first tube at tlie Britannia 
had been successfully floated between the piers ready for 
Ijeiiie* raised, m\ voung engineers were verv much 

i/ t/ o O / 

elated ; arid when the hoisting apparatus had been fixed, 
they wrote to me, saying,--' AVe are now all ready for 
raising her : we cpuld do it in a day, or in two at the 
most.' But my reply was, ' Xo : you must only raise the 
tube inch by inch, and you must build up under it as you 
rise. Every inch must be made good. Nothing must 

. XIX. 



be left to chance or good luck.' And fortunate it was 
that I insisted upon this cautious course being pursued ; 
for, one clay, while the hydraulic presses were at work, 
the bottom of one of them burst clean away ! The 
crosshead and the chains, weighing more than 50 tons, 
descended with a fearful crash upon the press, and the 
tube itself fell down upon the packing beneath. Though 
the fall of the tube was not more than nine inches, it 
crunched solid castings, weighing tons, as if they had 
been nuts. The tube itself was slightly strained and 
deflected, though it still remained sufficiently serviceable. 
But it was a tremendous test to which it was put, for a 
weight of upwards of 5000 tons falling even a few 
inches must be admitted to be a very serious matter.* 
That it stood so well was extraordinary. Clark imme- 
diately wrote me an account of the circumstance, in 
which he said, ' Thank God, you have been so obstinate. 
For if this accident had occurred without a bed for the 
end of the tube to fall on, the whole would now have 
been lying across the bottom of the Straits.' Five 
thousand pounds extra expense was caused by this 
accident, slight though it might seem. But careful 
provision was made against future failure ; a new and 
improved cylinder was provided ; and the work was 
very soon advancing satisfactorily towards completion." 1 

1 The hydraulic-presses were of an 
extraordinary character. The cylin- 
ders of those first constructed were of 
wrou glit-iron (cast-iron being found 
altogether useless), not less than 8 
inches thick. They were tested by 
being subjected to an internal pressure 
of 3 or 3 1 tons to the circular inch. 
The pressure was such that it squeezed 
the fibres of the iron together ; so that 
after a few tests of this kind the 
piston, which at first fitted it quite 
closely, was found considerably too 
small. " A new piston," says Mr. 
Clark, " was then made to suit the en- 
larged cylinder ; and a further enlarge- 
ment occurring again and again with 

o o 

subsequent use, the new pistons be- 
came as formidable an obstacle as the 
cylinders. The wrought-iron cylin- 
der was on the point of being aban- 
doned, when Mr. Amos (the iron 
manufacturer), having carefully gauged 
the cylinder inside and out, found to 
his surprise, that although the inter- 
nal diameter had increased consider- 
ably, the external diameter had re- 
tained precisely its original dimen- 
sions. He consequently persevered in 
the construction of new pistons; and 
ultimately found that the cylinder 
enlarged no longer, and to this day 
it continues in constant use. Layer 
after layer having attained additional 

Til SIT. XIX. 

\Vh.-n tli. Queen i I'inTanni: 1 I' >n 

irn tV.'in tli- N" 'h in 1 - R 

i 1 1- M nd IViiH A 

rks, 2 j'riii \vliidi hrii!_ 

tilt, and * Bculties \vhi-h hal 

it- 1 1 i ' : TV t- r tin- 

111: _ - . :ilid. 86 _ 

incident of tl. * 11 of the tr, . ::lld * L of JT< 

v-.-rv . i with pardonable pride to a ]ih- 

si - -h tl, rkint'li li;nl tl. E '1 t" nin- 

in.-n. ' - tli.- it. Wjji; trlv all t ] ks 

w. >rk <luriii ( L: - its j _ se --n obKterated, 

that cairn had been left standing in commemoration <f 
the caution and fre-iVht "f their chi 

The floating and raising <.f the remaining tubes need 
n^t 1't- described in detail. T 91 nd wae bed on 
the .'Jr.l I> , and >et in i*- rnianent jlace on the 

7th January, 1850. The otl - I I lamlr;'- 

at . . with ting 1 .t tubt- at ' 

^[:K Si - - - 

. -ppa- depei. - t is, 

-urmoi: . . !i in. ^ me to alter the arrano - 

thr. .mch re - 

. - _ 

tire'. Kmau i;.:.y i with my \.<r -- . u.ld 

calling t: ~ _:-a- 

r than the : . _ It would, i 

I - stronger as regards ! ha^ - 

:i m_ -.v much T -tul 

'lark, vvl. J. y- TTCSB - 

draulic-press*:- osed in raising 1 ..... 

tul- - - s . 

:emem"- . > used is - I y y 

starting - -:iment. in 

ben - M wall where my 1 . In : 

built. membmL - _- 

1 While tl. in - - 

- -- ' that throuo 

- - -- _ - - . - 

in*. .1 public rail v vt: - the thinge 

- Darl: m ho:. - in which he tvk esfecial . . - 

[ -y. in frequently and v 

"::. M.:y. 1-' . - - describii-_ 5 fin -' b Dari 

- : " I im ; . r with ; I - ib- 
the pleasure I ject of T Stockton I 

-_ _ 


in due arse. < hi the 5th "f March. Mr. .Stephenson 
put the la-t rivet in the last tu; . nd pass 1 
the completed bridge, accompanied l.-y aljont a 

re ns, drawn Ijy three locomotives. The bridge was 
opened, for public ti-affie on the 18th of March. The 
r-n>t of th^ wjjr.le work wa- 'J.'U.^ 


The Britannia Bridge is me ( 'f tlie most remarkable 
monument- of tlie enterpri>^ and skill of the pre>ent 
century. Roljeit Stephensoo wa> the m six >pirit 
the nndertaking. To him belongs rhe merit of fii-~ 
s zina' the ideal conception of the >tructure l-e.-tada]-* 
to meet the ne asities of th se : and of -electiuir T 



l.r>t men to work cut his idea. hiuiM'lf walehiirj. con- 
trolling:, and testiner every rr>uh. lv independenl check 


;uul counter-check. And I'mally, In- orpin i.-rd ;m<! 

dhvrli'd. through Ills assistants, thr vast hand M| skilled 

workmen ;nnl labourers who wen- for BO in;inv years 

t i 

occupied in eariying liis magnificent original conception 
to ;i siiccrsst'iil practical issue. As IK- himself said of 
the work, --"The tnir:unl accurate calculation <>t';ill ilic 

cnlnlilinlis Mini <'l('HH'llts ( -SM '1 1 1 i; I I t) llir silfrtY (if ill' 1 

liriduv h;id licdi ;i sourer not onlv of inriilid lull ol 

I * 

bodily toil; including,as it did, a combination ofabstrad 
and well-considered experiment adequate to the 

of tlie project." 
The Britannia Bridge was the result of a vast combi- 
nation of skill and industry. But for the perfection of 
our tools and the ability of our mechanics to use them 
i(. thr greatest advantage; but for the matured powers 
of the steam-engine; but for the improvements in the 
iron manufacture, which enabled blooms to be puddled 
of sixes before deemed impracticable, and plates and 
bars of immense size to be rolled and forged; but for 
these, the Britannia Bridge would have been designed 
in vain. Thus, it was not the product of the genius 
of the railway engineer alone, but of the collective 
mechanical genius of the English nation. 

. TUBE. 


VIEW IN TAPTQN GARDENS. [By Percival Skelton.] 



describing the completion of the series of great works 
detailed in the preceding chapter, we have somewhat 
anticipated the closing years of George Stephenson's life. 
He could not fail to take an anxious interest in the suc- 
cess of his son's designs, and he accordingly paid many 
visits to Con way and to Menai, during the progress of the 
works. He was present on the occasion of the floating 
and raising of the first Conway tube, and there witnessed 
a clear proof of the soundness of Robert's judgment as 
to the efficiency and strength of the tubular bridge, of 
which he had at first experienced some doubts ; but 
before the like test could be applied at the Britannia 
Bridge, George Stephenson's mortal anxieties were at 
an end, for he had then ceased from all his labours. 

Towards the close of his life, George Stephenson almost 
entirely withdrew from the active pursuit of his profes- 
sion as an engineer. He devoted himself chiefly to his 
extensive collieries and lime-works, taking a local in- 


teresl >nlv in ^m-h project. -d railways us were calculated 


io opm up new markets lor their products, 

Ai home IK- li\ed tin- life of a country gentleman, 

enjoying liis Li'arden ;in<l irroiind-. ;in<l indulging his 
love "I" nature. \\liicli, through nil his busy life, had 
neyer li-l'l liiin. It was not nnlil tlic year 1 S 1 ."> llini 

IK- t.u.k- mi active interest in horticultura] pursuits. 

Then lie began to build new melon-houses, pineri.-. 
;nid vineries, of uTeat extent ; ;ind lie now seemed us 
eager to excel nil other growers of exoliV ])lants in liis 
neiu'liltonrliood, ;is In- lind been to snrpnss tlir vilJMLivrs 

<^^ i_ 

of Killingworth in the production of gigantic cabbages 

and cauliflowers some thirty years before. He had 
a pine-house built, sixty-eight feet in length and a 
pinery a hundred and forty feet. Workmen were con- 
stantly employed in enlarging them, until at length h<- 
had no fewer than ten glass forcing-houses, heated with 
hot water, which he was one of the first in that neigh- 
bourhood to make use of for such a purpose. He did 
not take so much pleasure in flowers as in fruits. At 
one of the county agricultural meetings, he said that 
he intended yet to grow pine-apples at Tapton as big 
as pumpkins. The only man to whom he would " knock 
under ' was his friend Paxton, the gardener to the 
Duke of Devonshire ; and he was so old in the service, 
and so skilful, that he could scarcely hope to beat him. 
Yet his " Queen' pines did take the first prize at a 
competition with the Duke,- -though this was not until 
shortly after his death, when the plants had become 
more fully grown. His grapes also took the first prize 
at Rotherham, at a competition open to all England. He 
was extremely successful in producing melons, having 
invented a method of suspending them in baskets of 
wire gauze, which, by relieving the stalk from tension, 
allowed nutrition to proceed more freely, and better 
enabled the fruit to grow and ripen. Amongst his 
other erections, he built a joiner's shop, where he kept 


a workman regularly employed in carrying out his 
many ingenious contrivances of this sort. 


He took much pride, also in his growth of cucumbers. 
He raised them very fine and large, but he could not 
make them grow straight. Place them as he would, 
notwithstanding all his propping of them, and humour- 
ing them by modifying the application of heat and the 
admission of light for the purpose of effecting his object, 
they would still insist on growing crooked in their own 
way. At last he had a number of glass cylinders made 
at Newcastle, for the purpose of an experiment ; into 
these the growing cucumbers were inserted, and then he 
succeeded in growing them perfectly straight. Carry- 
ing one of the new products into his house one day, and 
exhibiting it to a party of visitors, he told them of the 
expedient he had adopted, and added gleefully, " I think 
I have bothered them noo !" 

Mr. Stephenson also carried on farming operations 
with some success. He experimented on manure, and 
fed cattle after methods of his own. He was very par- 
ticular as to breed and build in stock-breeding. " You 
see, sir," he said to one gentleman, " I like to see the 
coo's back at a gradient something like this ' (drawing 
an imaginary line with his hand), " and then the ribs or 
girders will carry more flesh than if they were so --or 
so." AVhen he attended the county agricultural meetings, 
which he frequently did, he was accustomed to take part 
in the discussions, and he brought the same vigorous 
practical mind to bear upon questions of tillage, drain- 
age, and farm economy, which he had been accustomed 
to exercise on mechanical and engineering matters. At 
one of the meetings of the North Derbyshire Agricul- 
tural Society, he favoured the assembled farmers with 
an explanation of his theory of vegetation. The prac- 
tical conclusion to which it led was, that the agriculturist 
ought to give as much light and heat to the soil as 
possible. At the same time he stated his opinion that, 

ill nil; ls AND BEES. CHAP. XX. 

in some col. I soils, \v;iiiT contributed 1<> promote vegeta- 
tion, rather than in in 1 1 idle It, as was generally believed ; 
tor the water, being exposed i<> ihe sun ;m<l atmosphere, 
came specifically warmer ili;m tin- earth ii covered, 
and when it afterwards irrigated the fields, it edimiiu- 
nieated tin's additional heat i< the soil which it per- 

All his early affection for birds and animals revived. 
lie had favourite dogs, and cows, and horses ; and a pi in 
he began to keep rabbits, and to pride himself on the 

heauty of his breed. There was not a bird's nest upon 

the grounds that lie did not know of; an<l from dav to 


day lie went round watching the progress which the 
birds made with their building, carefully guarding 
them from injury. No one was more minutely ac- 
quainted with the luibits of British lirds, the result of 
a long, loving, and close observation of nature. 

At Tapton he remembered the failure of his early 
experiment in hatching birds' eggs by heat, and he now 
performed it successfully, being able to secure a proper 
apparatus for maintaining a uniform temperature. He 
was also curious about the breeding and fattening of 
fowls ; and when his friend Edward Pease of Darling- 
ton visited him at Tapton, he explained a method which 
lie had invented for fattening chickens in half the usual 
time. The chickens were shut up in boxes, which were 
so made as to exclude the light. Dividing the day into 
two or three periods, the birds were shut up at the end 
of each after a heavy feed, and went to sleep. The plan 
proved very successful, and Mr. Stephenson jocularly 
said that if he were to devote himself to chickens he 
could soon make a little fortune. 

Mrs. Stephenson tried to keep bees, but found they 
would not thrive at Tapton. Many hives perished, 
and there was no case of success. The cause of failure 
was a puzzle to the engineer ; but one day his acute 
powers of observation enabled him to unravel it. At 


the foot of the hill on which Tapton House stands, he 
saw some bees trying to rise up from amongst the 
grass, laden with honey and wax. They were already 
exhausted, as if with long flying ; and then it occurred 
to him that the height at which the house stood above 
the bees' feeding-ground rendered it difficult for them to 
reach their hives when heavy laden, and hence they sank 
exhausted. He afterwards incidentally mentioned the 
circumstance to Mr. Jesse the naturalist, who concurred in 
his view as to the cause of failure, and was much struck 
by the keen observation which had led to its solution. 

Mr. Stephensoii had none of the iii-door habits of the 
student. He read very little ; for reading is a habit 
which is generally acquired in youth ; and his youth 
and manhood had been for the most part spent in 
hard work. Books wearied him, and sent him to 
sleep. Novels excited his feelings too much, and he 
avoided them, though he would occasionally read 
through a philosophical book on a subject in which 
he felt particularly interested. He wrote very few 
letters with his own hand ; nearly all his letters were 
dictated, and he avoided even dictation when he could. 
His greatest pleasure was in conversation, from which 
he gathered most of his imparted information ; hence he 
was always glad in the society of intelligent, conversible 

It was his practice, when about to set out on a journey 
by railway, to walk along the train before it started, 
and look into the carriages to see if he could find " a 
conversible face." On one of these occasions, at the 
Euston Station, he discovered in a carriage a very hand- 
some, manly, and intelligent face, which he afterwards 
found was that of the late Lord Denman. He was on his 
way down to his seat at Stony Middelton, in Derbyshire. 
Mr. Stephensoii entered the carriage, and the two were 
shortly engaged in interesting conversation. It turned 
upon chronometry and horology, and the engineer 


;mi;i/.<'<l his lordship hv the rxtriii of his knowledge on 
ili<- subject, in which h- displayed ;is much minute mlnr- 
mation, even dnwn i> tin- l;-irsi improvements in watch- 
making, as it In- had hccn l>n-d ;i watchmaker and lived 

hv llir trade. Lord Deimian \v;is curious to know liow 

;i man whose time must have hern inainlv engrossed lv 

engineering, had gathered so much knowledge on a 

subject <|uite nut nt' liis own line, and lie askrd the 
question. " I learnt clockmaking and watchmaking," 
was the answer, u Avln'le a working man at Killingworth, 
wlien I made a little money in my spai'e hours, by clean- 
in-' the pitmen's clocks and watches; and since then I 
have kept up my information on the subject." This led 
to further questions, and then Mr. Stephenson told Lord 
Denman the interesting story of his life, which held him 
entranced during the remainder of the journey. 

Many of his friends readily accepted invitations in 
Tapton House to enjoy his hospitality, which never 
failed. With them he would "fight his battles o'er 
airain," reverting often to his battle for the locomotive ; 
and he was never tired of telling, nor were his auditors 
of listening to, the lively anecdotes with which he was 
accustomed to illustrate the struggles of his early career. 
Whilst walking in the woods or through the grounds, 
he would arrest his friends' attention by allusion to 
some simple object, such as a leaf, a blade of grass, a 
bit of bark, a nest of birds, or an ant carrying its eggs 
across the path, and descant in glowing terms upon 
the creative power of the Divine Mechanician, whose 
contrivances were so exhaustless and so wonderful. 
This was a theme upon which he was often accus- 
tomed to dwell in reverential admiration, when in the 
society of his more intimate friends. 

One night, when walking under the stars, and gazing 
up into the field of suns, each the probable centre of a 
system, forming the Milky Way, a friend said to him, 
" What an insignificant creature is man in sight of so 


immense a creation as that ! ' " Yes ! ' was his reply ; 
" but how wonderful a creature also is man, to be able to 
think and reason, and even in some measure to compre- 
hend works so infinite ! ' 

A microscope, which he had brought down to Tapton, 
was a source of immense enjoyment to him ; and he was 
never tired of contemplating the minute wonders which 
it revealed. One evening, when some friends were 
visiting him, he induced each of them to puncture his 
skin so as to draw blood, in order that he might 
examine the globules through the microscope. One 
of the gentlemen present was a teetotaller, and Mr. 
Stephenson pronounced his blood to be the most lively 
of the whole. He had a theory of his own about the 
movement of the globules in the blood, which has since 
become familiar. It was, that they were respectively 
charged with electricity, positive at one end and nega- 
tive at the other, and that thus they attracted and 
repelled each other, causing a circulation. No sooner 
did he observe anything new, than he immediately set 
about devising a reason for it. His training in mechanics, 
his practical familiarity with matter in all its forms, and 
the strong bent of his mind, led him first of all to seek 
for a mechanical explanation. And yet he was ready 
to admit that there was a something in the principle 
of life so mysterious and inexplicable- -which baffled 
mechanics, and seemed to dominate over and control 
them. He did not care much, either, for abstruse 
mechanics, but only for the experimental and practical, 
as is usually the case with those whose knowledge has 
been self-acquired. 

Even at his advanced age, the spirit of frolic had 
not left him. When proceeding from Chesterfield station 
to Tapton House with his friends, he would almost inva- 
riably challenge them to a race up the steep path, partly 
formed of stone steps, along the hill side. And he 
would struggle, as of old, to keep the front place, though 


- A 



by thisliinr his^wind" 

li;nl greatly failed. I Ie 
would ( >ccasi( maliy in- 

vite ;ni (!<! friend i 

lake ;i ijuirt wivstlr 
willi liiin OH the lawn. 
ID keep ii]> his skill, 
and perhaps to try 
M>nie iM-\v " knack " of 
throwing. Iiitlie even- 
ing, lie would some- 
times indulge his vi 
si tors by reciting the 
old pastoral of "Damon 

and Phyllis,' or siim- 


ing his favourite song 
of " John Anderson 
my Joe." But his 
greatest o*lor v amongst 

o o / ~ 

those with whom he 
was most intimate, 

was "a crowdie ! ' "Let's have a crowdie night," he 
\\ould say; and forthwith a kettle of boiling water 
was ordered in, with a basin of oatmeal. Taking a 
large bowl, containing a sufficiency of hot water, and 
placing it between his knees, he poured in oatmeal with 
one hand, and stirred the mixture vigorously with the 
other. When enough meal had been added, and the 
stirring was completed, the crowdie was made. It was 
then supped with new milk, and Stephenson generally 
pronounced it " capital ! " It was the diet to which he had 
been accustomed when a working man, and all the dain- 
ties with which he had become familiar in recent years 
had not spoiled his simple tastes. To enjoy crowdie at 
his age, besides, indicated that he still possessed that 
quality on which no doubt much of his practical success 
in life had depended, -a strong and healthy digestion. 



He would also frequently invite to his house the 
humbler companions of his early life, and take pleasure 
in talking over old times with them. He never 
assumed any of the bearings of a great man on such 
occasions, but treated the visitors with the same friend- 
liness and respect as if they had been his equals, sending 
them away pleased with themselves and delighted with 
him. At other times, needy men who had known him 
in youth would knock at his door, and they were never 
refused access. But if he had heard of any misconduct 
on their part, he would rate them soundly. One who 
knew him intimately in private life has seen him ex- 
horting such backsliders, and denouncing their miscon- 
duct and imprudence, with the tears streaming down his 
cheeks. And he would generally conclude by opening 
his purse, and giving them the help which they needed 
" to make a fresh start in the world." 

Young men would call upon him for advice or assist- 
ance in commencing a professional career. When he 
noted their industry, prudence, and good sense, he was 
always ready. But, hating foppery and frippery above 
all things, he would reprove any tendency to this weak- 
ness which he observed in the applicants. One day, a 
youth desirous of becoming an engineer called upon 
him, flourishing a gold-headed cane : Mr. Stephenson 
said, " Put by that stick, my man, and then I will speak 
to you." To another extensively decorated gentleman, 
he one clay said, " You will, I hope, Mr. , excuse 
me ; I am a plain-spoken person, and am sorry to see 
a nice-looking and rather clever young man like you 
disfigured with that fine-patterned waistcoat, and all 
these chains and fang-dangs. If I, sir, had bothered 
my head with such things at your age, I would not 
have been where I am now." 

Mr. Stephenson' s life at Tapton during his later years 
was occasionally diversified with a visit to London. His 


engineering business having' become limited, he gene- 

VOL. III. 2 G 

450 Sli; l;nI',KI!T IT.I-L'S I.\VIT.\TK>X. CHAP. NX. 

rally went there tor the purpose of visiting friends, or 

"to see \\li;it tlinv was fresh ir<>inLr mi." lie found a 

iirw race of engineers springing up on all hand- men 
who knew him not : and lu's London journeys gradually 

i * 

ceased to yield him iv;d pleasure. A friend used to 
take him to the opera, but by the end of the iirst a<-t. 
he was generally observed in a pro ton IK I slumber. Yet 
on one occasion lie enjoyed a visit to the Haymarket, 
with a partv of friends on his birthday, to see T. P. 


Tooke, in " Black-eyed Susan ; ' -if that can lie called 
enjoyment which kept him in a state of tears during 
half the performance. At other times he visited 
Newcastle, which always gave him great pleasure. 
He would, on such occasions, go out to Killingworth 
and seek up old friends, and if the people whom he 
knew were too retiring and shrunk into their cottages, 
he went and sought them there. Striking the floor 
with his stick, and holding his noble person upright, 
he would say, in his own kind way, " AVell, and how's 
all here to-day? ' To the last he had always a warm 
heart for Newcastle and its neighbourhood. 

Sir Robert Peel, on more than one occasion, invited 
Mr. Stephenson to his mansion at Dray ton, where he 
was accustomed to assemble round him men of the 
highest distinction in art, science, and legislation, 
during the intervals of his parliamentary life. The 
first invitation was respectfully declined. Sir Robert 
invited him a second time, and a second time he 
declined: "I have no great ambition," he said, "to 
mix in fine company, and perhaps should feel out 
of my element amongst such high folks." But Sir 
Robert a third time pressed him to come down to 
Tamworth early in January, 1845, when he would 
meet Buckland, Follett, and others well known to 
both. "Well, Sir Robert," said he, "I feel your 
kindness very much, and can no longer refuse : I will 
come down and join your party." 


Mr. Stephenson's strong powers of observation, to- 
gether with his native humour and shrewdness, imparted 
to his conversation at all times much vigour and origi- 
nality, and made him, to young and old, a delightful 
companion. Though mainly an engineer, he was also a 
profound thinker on many scientific questions : and there 
was scarcely a subject of speculation, or a department 
of recondite science, on which he had not employed his 
faculties in such a way as to have formed large and 
original views. At Dray ton, the conversation usually 
turned upon such topics, and Mr. Stephenson freely 
joined in it. On one occasion, an animated discussion 
took place between himself and Dr. Buckland on one of 
his favourite theories as to the formation of coal. But 
the result was, that Dr. Buckland, a much greater master 
of tongue-fence than Mr. Stephenson, completely silenced 
him. Next morning, before breakfast, w^hen he was 
walking in the grounds, deeply pondering*, Sir William 
Follett came up and asked what he was thinking about ? 
" Why, Sir William, I am thinking over that argument 
I had with Buckland last night ; I know I am right, 
and that if I had only the command of words which he 
has, I'd have beaten him." " Let me know all about 
it," said Sir William, " and I'll see what I can do for 
you." The two sat down in an arbour, and the astute 
lawyer made himself thoroughly acquainted with the 
points of the case ; entering into it with all the zeal of 
an advocate about to plead the dearest interests of his 
client. After he had mastered the subject, Sir William 
rose up, rubbing his hands with glee, and said, " JSTow I 
am ready for him." Sir Robert Peel was made ac- 
quainted with the plot, and adroitly introduced the 
subject of the controversy after dinner. The result 
was, that in the argument which followed, the man of 
science was overcome by the man of law ; and Sir 
William Follett had at all points the mastery over 
Dr. Buckland. " What do you say, Mr. Stephenson ? ' 

2 G 2 


;iskr<l Sir Robert, laughing. " Whv, s;ii<l lie. " I will 


olilv s;iV tills, that of all ill*' Mowers ahove and under 

tin- earth, then- seems i" m<- t> he no power so im-at as 
tin- irift of the --ah." 

One day. ;it dinner, during the same visit. ;i scientific 
l;idy a>ked him the (jiiestimi : " Mr. Stephenson, \vli:it 
do von consider the most powerful force in aature ? ' 
"Oh!" s;iid lie, iii ;i gallant spirit, " 1 will soon answer 
that question : it is the eye of a woman for the man 
who loves her; for if a woman look with affection on a 
young man, and he should go to the uttermost ends of 
the earth, the recollection of that look will brini;- him 
hack : there is no other force in nature could do that." 

One Sunday, when the party had just returned from 
church, they were standing together on the terrace near 
the Hall, and observed in the distance a railway-train 
flashing along, tossing behind its long white plume 
of steam. " Now, Buckland," said Stephenson, " I 
have a poser for you. Can you tell me what is the 
power that is driving that train?' "Well," said the 
other, " I suppose it is one of your big engines." " But 
what drives the engine?' "Oh, very likely a canny 

Newcastle driver.' " What do you say to the li&iit of 

. tj 

the sun ? ' " How can that be ? ' asked the doctor. 
" It is nothing else," said the engineer : " it is light 
bottled up in the earth for tens of thousands of years, 
light, absorbed by plants and vegetables, being necessary 
for the condensation of carbon during the process of 
their growth, if it be not carbon in another form, and 
now, after being buried in the earth for long ages in 
fields of coal, that latent light is again brought forth 
and liberated, made to work as in that locomotive, for 
great human purposes." 

During the same visit, Mr. Stephenson one evening- 
repeated his experiment with blood drawn from the 
finger, submitting it to the microscope in order to show 
the curious circulation of the globules. He set the ex- 


ample by pricking his own thumb ; and the other 
guests, by turns, in like manner gave up a small 
portion of their blood for the purpose of ascertaining 
the comparative liveliness of their circulation. When 
Sir Robert Peel's turn came, Mr. Stephenson said he was 
curious to know " how the blood globules of a great 
politician would conduct themselves." Sir Robert held 
forth his finger for the purpose of being pricked ; but 
once, and again, he sensitively shrunk back, and at 
length the experiment, so far as he was concerned, was 
abandoned. Sir Robert Peel's sensitiveness to pain was 
extreme, and yet he was destined, a few years after, to 
die a death of the most distressing agony. 

In 1847, the year before his death, Mr. Stephenson 
was again invited to join a distinguished party at Dray- 
ton Manor, and to assist in the ceremony of formally 
opening the Trent A^ alley Railway, which had been 
originally designed and laid out by himself many years 
before. The first sod of the railway had been cut 
by the Prime Minister, in November, 1845, during the 
time when Mr. Stephenson was abroad on the business 
of the Spanish railway. The formal opening took place 
on the 26th of June, 1847, the line having thus been 
constructed in less than two years. 

AY hat a change had come over the spirit of the landed 
gentry since the time when George Stephenson had 
first projected a railway through that district ! Then 
they were up in arms against him, characterising him as 
the devastator and spoiler of their estates ; now he was 
hailed as one of the greatest benefactors of the age. 
Sir Robert Peel, the chief political personage in Eng- 
land, welcomed him as a guest and friend, and spoke 
of him as the chief among practical philosophers. A 
dozen members of Parliament, seven baronets, with all 
the landed magnates of the district, assembled to cele- 
brate the opening of the railway. The clergy were there 


to bless tin. 1 rntTi>ri><'. ;m<l to bid all hail to raihvay 

progiv^ . as "enabling ilu-m to carry <m with LnvatT 
facility those operations in connexion with n-Iiirinn which 
were calculated to be so beneficial to the country." The 

army, speaking thronirh tin- inonili !' (Inirral AVmirt, 

acknowledged tlir vasl importance of railway-. ;is tend- 
ing to ini]iro\v the military defences of tlie country. 
And representatives from eight corporations were there 
to acknowledge the great benefits which railways had 
conferred ii])on the merchants, tradesmen, and working 
classes of their respective towns and cities. 

Shortly after this celebration at Tamworth, Mr. Ste- 


phensoii was invited to be present at an assemblage of 
railway men in Manchester, at which a testimonial was 
presented to Mr. J. P. Westhead, the former chairman 
of the Manchester and Birmingham li ail way. The 


original Liverpool and Manchester line had now swelled 
into gigantic proportions. It formed the nucleus of the 
yast system now known as the London and Xorth- 


western Railway. First one line, and then, another, of 


which Mr. Stephensou was the engineer, had been amal- 
gamated with it, until the main line extended from 
London to Lancaster, stretching out its great arms to 
Leeds in one direction and Holyhead in the other, and 
exercising an influence over other northern lines, as far 
as Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen. On the occasion 
to which we refer, Mr. Stephenson, the " father of rail- 
ways," was not forgotten. It was mainly his ingenuity, 
energy, and perseverance that had called forth the 
commercial enterprise which issued in this magnificent 
system of internal communication ; and the railway men 
who assembled to do honour to Mr. Westhead did not 
fail to recognise the great practical genius through 
whose labours it had been established. He was " the 
rock from which they had been hewn," observed Mr. 
Westhead,- -the father of railway enterprise, and the 


forerunner of all that had been done to extend the 
locomotive system throughout England and throughout 
the world. 

In the spring of 1848 Mr. Stephenson was invited to 
Whittingtoii House, near Chesterfield, the residence of 
his friend and former pupil, Mr. Swanwick, to meet the 
distinguished American, Emerson. It was interesting 
to see those two remarkable men, so different in most 
respects, and whose lines of thought and action lay in 
such widely different directions, yet so quick to recognise 
each other's merits. Mr. Stephenson was not, as yet, 
acquainted with Mr. Emerson as an author ; and the 
contemplative American might not be supposed to be 
particularly interested beforehand in the English engi- 
neer, whom he knew by reputation only as a giant in 
the material world. But there was in both an equal 
aspiration after excellence, each in his own sphere,- -the 
esthetic and abstract tendencies of the one complement- 
ing the keen and accurate perceptions of the material 
of the other. Upon being introduced, they did not 
immediately engage in conversation ; but presently 
Stephenson jumped up, took Emerson by the collar, 
and, giving him one of his friendly shakes, asked how it 
was that in England we could always tell an American ? 
This led to an interesting conversation, in the course of 
which Emerson said how much he had everywhere been 
struck by the haleness and comeliness of the English 
men and women ; and then they diverged into a further 
discussion of the influences which air, climate, moisture, 
soil, and other conditions exercised upon the physical 
and moral development of a people. The conversa- 
tion was next directed to the subject of electricity, 
upon which Stephenson launched out enthusiastically, 
explaining his views by several simple and striking 
illustrations. From thence it gradually turned to the 
events of his own life, which he related in so graphic a 
manner as completely to rivet the attention of the 


American. Afterwards KMUTSMH -aid. ''that ii \va- 
worth crossing tin- Atlantic i" have smi Stephenson 
alone : In- li;i<l siu-h native torn- <>!' character and vigour 
<>(' Intellect." Although Kni<-is<>n docs n<>i particularly 
ivl'cr to tin's interview in tin* inirivsiing essay afterwards 
published lv liim, entitled ' Knglish Traits/ embodying 
the n-nlis of tin- observations made bv liim in his 

jourii-v> through England, one cannot help feeling that 
, i , i . i i 

liis interview with such a in;in ;<s Stephenson must li;i\c 
tcinh'il to lix in liis mind tliosc sterling (pialitics of 
] !urk. 1 1. >1 TI >m, | M-rscvcnmce, energy, shrewdness, hravcry, 
and freedom, wliicli he so vividly depicts in his Itook 
as tlie prominent characteristics of the modern English- 

The rest of Mr. Stephenson' s days were spent quietly 
at Tapton, amongst liis doo-s, his ral;hits. and liis bird-. 
When not oiiira^vd ahoiit the works connected with his 
collieries, he was occupied in horticulture and farming. 
He continued proud of his flowers, his fruits, and his 
crops; and the old spirit of competition was still strong 
within him. Although he had for some time been in 
delicate health, and his hand shook from nervous affec- 
tion, he appeared to possess a sound constitution. Emer- 
son had observed of him that he had the lives of many 
men in him. But perhaps the American spoke figura- 
tively, in reference to his vast stores of experience. It 
appeared that lie had never completely recovered from 
the attack of pleurisy which seized him during his return 
from Spain. As late, however, as the 2(.th of July,' 
1848, he felt himself sufficiently well to be able to attend 
a meeting of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers at 
Birmingham, and to read to the members his paper " On 
the Fallacies of the Rotatory Engine." It was liis last 
appearance before them. Shortly after his return to 
Tapton, he had an attack of intermittent fever, from 
which he seemed to be recovering, when a sudden 
effusion of blood from the lungs carried him off, on the 




12th of August, 1848,in the sixty-seventh vear of his 

o t/ / 

age. When all was over, Robert wrote to Edmund 
Pease, " With deep pain I inform you, as one of his 
oldest friends, of the death of mv dear father this 


morning at 12 o'clock, after about ten days' illness from 
severe fever." Mr. Starbuck, who was also present, 
wrote : " The favourable symptoms of yesterday morning 
were towards evening followed by a serious change for 
the worse. This continued during the night, and early 
this morning it became evident that he was sinking. 
At a few minutes before 12 to-day he breathed his last. 
All that the most devoted and unremitting care of Mrs. 
Stephenson, and the skill of medicine could accomplish, 
has been done, but in vain/' 

George Stephenson' s remains were followed to the 
grave by a large body of his workpeople, by whom he 
was greatly admired and beloved. They remembered 

<_} i/ f 

him as a kind master, who was ever ready actively to 

j t. 

promote all measures for their moral, physical, and 
mental improvement. The inhabitants of Chesterfield 
evinced their respect for the deceased by suspending 

: V<i:T-;--'" 


458 STATTKS To STKl'll KN"S< N. CHAP. XX. 

business, closing their shops, and joining in the funeral 

, which W843 lieadrd 1 1 y the Corporation ol thr 

Manv of the surrounding gentry also attended. 
Tlic bodv was interred in Trinity Church, Chesterfield, 
where ;i simple taMet marks the p-eat engineer's l:ist 


The statue of George Stephenson, which the Liver- 
pool mid Manchester and Grand Junction Conipanif- 
had commissioned, was on its way to England when 
his death occurred ; and it served for a monument, 
though liis best monument will always "be bis works. 
The Liverpool Board placed a minute on their books, 
embodying the graceful tribute of their secretary, Mr. 

Henry Booth, in which they recorded their admiration 

i/ */ 

of the life, and their esteem for the character of the 
deceased. " The directors," they say, " on the present 
occasion look back with peculiar interest to their first 
connexion with Mr. Stephenson, in the construction of 
the Liverpool and Manchester Railway ; to a period 
now twenty years past, when he floated their new line 
over Chat Moss, and cut his way through the rock- 
cutting at Olive Mount. Tracing the progress of rail- 
ways from the first beginning to the present time, they 
find Mr. Stephenson foremost in urging forward the 
great railway movement ; earning and maintaining his 
title to be considered, before any other man, the author 

of that universal system of locomotion which has effected 


such mighty results commercial, social, and political- 
throughout the civilized world. Two years ago, the 
directors entrusted to Mr. Gibson, of Rome, the duty 
and the privilege of producing a statue that might do 
honour to their friend, then living amongst them. They 
did riot anticipate that on the completion of this work of 
art the great original would be no more, --that they 
should be constrained to accept the marble effigy of the 
engineer in lieu of the living presence oT the man." 


The statue here referred to was placed in St. George's 
Hall, Liverpool. A full-length statue of the deceased, 
by Bailey, was also erected a few years later, in the 
noble vestibule of the London and North Western Sta- 
tion, in Euston Square. A subscription for the purpose 
was set on foot by the Society of Mechanical Engineers, 
of which he had been the founder and president. A 
few advertisements were inserted in the newspapers, 
inviting subscriptions ; and it is a notable fact that the 
voluntary offerings included an average of two shillings 
each from 3150 working men, who embraced this oppor- 
tunity of doing honour to their distinguished fellow 
workman . 

But unquestionably the finest and most appropriate 
statue to the memory of George Stephenson is that 
erected in the course of the present year at Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne. It is in the immediate neighbourhood of 
the Literary and Philosophical Institute, to which both 
George and his son Robert were so much indebted in 
their early years ; close to the great Stephenson locomo- 
tive foundry established by the shrewdness of the father ; 
and in the vicinity of the High Level Bridge, one of the 
grandest products of the genius of the son. The statue 
is by John Lough, a sculptor whose genius is equalled 
by his modesty. The head of Stephenson, as expressed 
in this noble work, is massive, characteristic, and 
faithful ; and the attitude of the figure is simple yet 
manly and energetic. It stands on a pedestal, at the 
respective corners of which are sculptured the recum- 
bent figures of a pitman, a mechanic, an engine-driver, 
and a plate-layer. These figures are admirably exe- 
cuted, and their design in connection with the central 
figure seems to us quite original. The statue appro- 
priately stands in a very thoroughfare of working men, 
thousands of whom see it daily as they pass to and from 
their work ; and we can imagine them, as they look up 
to Stephenson's manly figure, applying to it the words 


addlV>-cd 1>Y Rohcrt Nirnll In linluTl |>linis, \vllll |M'l- 

haps still uTcater ;i|| Topriateness : 

iv the ]rmidi'<t (!' tlir rarlli 
\Yc stand, \vitli an uplifted lr<>\v ; 
Lik- IH, tlioii \Vjist a foiling man. 
And \\v arc iiol>lc, now ! ' 

Tlic portrait prefixed to tin's volume gives a 
indication of George Stephenson's shrewd, kind, honest. 
manly 1'aee. PI is lair, clear countenance was ruddy. 

and seemingly plowed with health. The forehead was 

^ . o 

lar ( ire and liiirh, projecting over the eyes ; and there 
was that massive breadth across the lower part which is 
usually observed in men of eminent constructive skill. 

The mouth was firmly marked, and shrewdness and 

humour lurked there as well as in the keen grey eye. 
His frame was compact, well-knit, and rather span-. 
His hair became grey at an early age, and towards the 
close of his life it was of a pure silky whiteness. He 
dressed neatly in black, wearing a white neckcloth ; and 
his face, his person, and his deportment at once arrested 
attention, and marked the Gentleman. 

George Stephenson bequeathed to his son his valuable 
collieries, his share in the engine manufactory at New- 
castle, and his large accumulation of savings, which, 
together with the fortune he had himself amassed by 
railway work, gave Robert the position of an engineer 
millionaire- -the first of his race. He continued, how- 
ever, to live in a quiet style; and although he bought 
occasional pictures and statues, and indulged in the 
luxury of a yacht, he did not live up to his income, 
which went on rapidly accumulating until his death. 

There was no longer the necessity for applying him- 
self to the harassing business of a parliamentary en- 
gineer, in which he had now been occupied for some 
fifteen years. Shortly after his father's death, Edward 
Pease strongly recommended him to give up the more 


harassing work of his profession; and his reply (15th 
June, 1850) was as follows :--" The suggestion which 
your kind note contains is quite in accordance with my 
own feelings and intentions respecting retirement ; but 
I find it a very difficult matter to bring to a close so 
complicated a connexion in business as that which has 
been established by twenty-five years of active and 
arduous professional duty. Comparative retirement is, 
however, my intention ; and I trust that your prayer for 
the Divine blessing to grant me happiness and quiet 
comfort will be fulfilled. I cannot but feel deeply 
grateful to the Great Disposer of events for the success 
Avhicli has hitherto attended my exertions in life ; and I 
trust that the future will also be marked by a con- 
tinuance of His mercies." 

Robert Stephenson lived long enough, however, to 
repeat his Tubular Bridge in the magnificent structure 
across the St. Lawrence at Montreal, and, in a modified 
form, in the two bridges across the Nile, near Darmetta 
in Lower Egypt. The Victoria Bridge was erected after 
Mr. Stepheiison's designs under the immediate direction 
of Mr. Malcolm Ross, who acted as resident and joint 
engineer. With its approaches it is only sixty yards short 
of two miles in length. In gigantic strength and majestic 
proportions there is no structure to compare with it in 
ancient or modern times. It consists of not less than 
twenty-five immense tubular bridges joined into one ; the 
great central span being 330 feet, the others 242 feet in 
length. In constructing these tubes, the cellular prin- 
ciple has been entirely dispensed with. The weight of 
wrought-iroii in the bridge is about 10,000 tons; the 
piers being of massive stone, each containing some 
8000 tons of solid masonry. This vast structure was 
begun in 1854, and finished in 1860; but the engineer 
did not live to see its completion. 

The principal feature of Mr. Stepheiison's Egyptian 
bridges was in the road being carried upon the tubes in- 


Mead of within them. The larger of the two is over the 


Damietta hraneh of tlie Nile, near I>enha. It contains 
eight spans or openings of 80 feet each, and two centre 
spans, formed l>y one of the largest swing-bridges ever 
constructed- -the total length of the swing-beam l>eing 
157 feet : leaving a clear water-way of GO feet on either 
side of the central pier. The greatest difficulty encoun- 
tered in the erection of the bridge was in getting in the 
foundations, which were sunk 33 feet through soil of a 
peculiarly shifting character. 

During the later years of his life Mr. Stephenson was 
frequently called upon to act as arbitrator between con- 
tractors and railway companies, or between one com- 
pany and another- --great value being attached to his 
opinion on account of his weighty judgment, his great 
experience, and his upright character, and we believe 
his decisions were invariably stamped by the qualities of 
impartiality and justice. He was always ready to lend 
a helping hand to a friend, and 110 petty jealousy stood 
between him and rivals in the engineering world. The 
author remembers being with Mr. Stephenson one even- 
ing at his house in Gloucester Square, when a note was 
put into his hands from his friend Brunei, then engaged 
in his first fruitless efforts to launch the Great Eastern. 
It was to ask Stephenson to come down to Blackwall 
early next morning, and give him the benefit of his 
judgment. Shortly after six next morning Stephenson 
was in Scott Russell's building-yard, and he remained 
there until dusk. About midday, while superintending 
the launching operations, the balk of timber on which 
he stood canted up, and he fell up to his middle in the 
Thames mud. He was dressed as usual, without great- 
coat (though the day was bitter cold), and with only 
thin boots upon his feet. He was urged to leave the 
yard, and change his dress, or at least dry himself; but 
with his usual disregard of health, he replied, " Oh, 
never mind me- -I'm quite used to this sort of thing ;" 


and lie went paddling about in the mud, smoking his 
cigar, until almost dark, when the day's work was 
brought to an end. The result of this exposure was an 
attack of inflammation of the lungs, which kept him to 
his bed for a fortnight. 

Mr. Stephenson also took considerable interest in 
public affairs and in scientific investigations. In 1847 
he entered the House of Commons as member for 
Whitby ; but he does not seem to have been very de- 
voted in his attendance, and only appeared on divisions 
when there was a " whip ' of the party to which he 
belonged. He was a member of the Sanitary and 
Sewage Commissions, and of the Commission which sat 
on Westminster Bridge. The last occasions on which 
he addressed the House were on the Suez Canal and the 
cleansing of the Serpentine. He pronounced the Suez 
Canal to be an impracticable scheme. " I have surveyed 
the line," said he, u I have travelled the whole distance 
on foot, and I declare there is no fall between the two 
seas. Honourable members talk about a canal. A canal 
is impossible- -the thing would only be a ditch." 

Besides constructing the railway between Alexandria 
and Cairo, he w r as consulted respecting many important 
lines abroad. He was earlv consulted, like his father, 


by the King of Belgium, as to the railways of that 
country ; and he was made Knight of the Order of 
Leopold because of the improvements w r hich he had 
made in locomotive engines, so much to the advantage of 
the Belgian system of inland transit. He was consulted 
by the King of Sweden as to the rairway between 
Christiana and Lake Miosen, and in consideration of his 
services was decorated with the Grrand Cross of the 
Order of St. Olaf. He also visited Switzerland, Pied- 
mont, and Denmark, to advise as to the system of rail- 
way communication best suited for those countries. 
At the Paris Exhibition of 1855 the Emperor of France 
decorated him with the Legion of Honour in considera- 


tion <>f his piiMic services; :md ;ii liomr I!M' I niversity 

I' Oxford iii;nlV liini ;i I )o<-tor f Civil L;i\vs. In L855, 

In- was elected IVr-idrnt <>f the Institute of Civil Kngi- 
aeers, \vlnVli ofiirr In- ln-ld \\iili honour and filled with 

distinguished :ililiiv for two years, irivuiLr i>l;ic<- to Ins 


frit-lid Mr. Lorkr ;it the rnd of 1 S.~>7. 

It \\;is when on ;i visit to Xor\\;iy in the autumn of 
is.V.) that .Rohert Stephenson was sei/ed hy the illii' 
whicli terminated his illustrious career. lie had l.ceu 
for some tini.' ailing, and was in indifferent health when 
he sailed. But a dec] i-seateil disease lurked within him 

an old liver-complaint which first developed itself in 
jaundice and then in dropsy, of which he died on the 
12th of October, in the fifty-sixth year of his a^e. 1 He 
was buried by the side of Telford in Westminster Abbey, 
amidst the departed p-eat men of his country, and was 
attended to his resting-place by many of the intimate 
friends of his boyhood and his manhood. Among those 
who assembled round his grave were some of the greatest 
men of thought and action in England, who embraced 
the sad occasion to pay the last mark of their respect 
to this illustrious son of one of England's greatest work- 
ing men. 

1 In 1829 Robert Stephenson mar- 
ried Frances, daughter of John Sandcr- 
son, iiirrchimt, London; but she died 
in 1842, without issue, and Mr. Ste- 
lli(.-nson did not marry again. Writ- 
ing to his friend Kd \\ard Pease, of 
I >;irliim1oii, shortly alter his wife's 
death, in 184L', he said: "You have 
my sincere thanks for your land ex- 
pressions relative to the he;ivy aftlict ion 
with whicli the Almighty in his wis- 
dom has been pleased to visit me. Jt 

has, indeed, been severe, but I feel 
that the weight of the blow was much 
mitigated by my being mercifully 
permitted to witness the la>i moments 
of my beloved coin] an ion in life, whieh 
were those of a fervent and faithful 
Christian; and my prayer is that my 
last end may lie like hers." Until the 
close of his life, Hubert Stephensoii 
was accustomed twice in every year to 
visit his wife's grave in Ham} stead 




IT would be out of keeping with the subject thus drawn 
to a conclusion, to pronounce a panegyric on the cha- 
racter and achievements of George Stephenson and his 
son. Both were emphatically true men, presenting in 
their lives and works a combination of those sterling 
qualities which we are proud to regard as essentially 

In the old Teutonic tongue, Steeveson, of which 
Stevenson and Stephenson are but modifications, is said 
to mean the " Son of the Strong ;" nor did either of our 
engineers belie the appellation. Doubtless they owed 
much to their birth, belonging as they did to the hardy 
race of the north- -a race less supple, soft, and polished 
than the people of more southern districts ; but, like their 
Danish progenitors, full of courage, vigour, ingenuity, 
and persevering industry. Their strong, guttural speech, 
which sounds so harsh and unmusical in southern ears, 
is indeed but a type of their nature. When George 
Stephenson was struggling to give utterance to his views 
upon the locomotive before the Committee of the House 
of Commons, those who did not know him supposed he 
was " a foreigner." Before long the world saw in him 
an Englishman, stout-hearted and true one of those 
master minds who, by energetic action in new fields of 
industry, impress their character from time to time upon 
the age and nation to which they belong. 

The poverty of his parents being such that they could 
not give him any, even the very simplest, education, 
beyond the good example of integrity and industry, he 

VOL. III. 2 H 


\VMs r;irlv left to sllil't for hilll-elf. Mini c< impelled In lie 

>.-lt'-ivliaiit. Having the will i<> learn, he s<>nn fmmd M 
\VMV I'nr himself. No beginning could have been m<>iv 
humble limn his; lie persevered : he had determined 
in Irani. Mini he ilnl Learn. To such M resolution MS his, 
nothing really beneficial in life i> denied. II*' mighl 

lia\V said, like Sebastian Haell. " I WMS 1 1 K 1 ! 1st I'M H Is ; Mild 

whoever i- equally sedulous will In- equally successful." 

The wlmlr secret of Mr. Ste] liens( >n's success iii life 
WMS ln's eMreful improvement <>f time, wliieli is tin- n>ek 
niit >r wliieli inrtunos Mre cMvveil Mini Li'ivMt characters 
formed. Jle liclit-ved in pvnins to the extent that Bnffon 
did wlien lie s;ii<l flint " patioiico is genius;" or as some 
ntlior thinker ]>ut it, when lie defined ^vnins in Le the 
power of making efforts. But lie never would have it 
that he was M -vuius, or that he had done MnythiiiLi 1 
wliieli other men, equally laborious and persevering MS 
himself, could not have accomplished. He repeatedly 
said to the young men about him : " Do as I have done 
-persevere'! ' 

Every step of advance which he made was conquered 
lv patient labour. "When, an engineman, he systemati- 
cally took his engine to pieces on Saturday afternoons 
while the works were at a stand, for the purpose of 
cleaning it thoroughly, and " gaining insight." He 
thus gradually mastered the mechanism of the steam- 
engine, so that, when opportunity offered, he was enabled 
to improve it, and to make it work even when its own 
maker was baffled. He practically studied hydraulics 
in the same plodding way, when acting as plugman ; 
and when all the local pump-doctors at Killing worth 
were in despair, he stepped in, and successfully applied 
the knowledge which he had so laboriously gained. 
A man of such a temper and purpose could not but 
succeed in life. 

AA hether working as a brakesman or an engineer, his 
mind was always full of the work in hand. He gave 


himself thoroughly up to it. Like the painter, he might 
say that he had become great " by neglecting nothing." 
Whatever he was engaged upon, he was as careful of 
the details as if each were itself the whole. He did all 
thoroughly and honestly. There was no " scamping ' 
with him. When a workman he put his brains and 
labour into his work ; and when a master he put his 
conscience and character into it. He would have no 
slop-work executed merely for the sake of profit. The 
materials must be as genuine as the workmanship was 
skilful. The structures which he designed and executed 
were distinguished for their thoroughness and solidity ; 

his locomotives were famous for their durability and 


excellent working qualities. The engines which he sent 
to the United States in 1832 are still in good condition ; 
and even the engines built by him for the Killing worth 
colliery, upwards of thirty years ago, are working 
steadily there to this day. All his work was honest, 
representing the actual character of the man. 

The battle which Mr. Stephenson fought for the 
locomotive and he himself always spoke of it as a 
" battle ' -would have discouraged most other men ; 
but it only served to bring into prominence that energy 
and determination which formed the back-bone of his 
character. " I have fought," said he, " for the loco- 
motive single-handed for nearly twenty years, having 
no engineer to help me until I had reared engineers 
under my own care." The leading engineers of the 
day were against him, without exception ; yet he did 
not despair. He had laid hold of a great idea, and he 
stuck by it ; his mind was locked and bolted to the 
results. " I put up," he says, " with every rebuff, 
determined not to be put down." When the use of his 
locomotive on the Liverpool and Manchester line was 
reported against, and the employment of fixed engines 
recommended instead, Mr. Stephenson implored the 
directors, who were no engineers, only to afford him a 

2 H 2 


lliir opportunity lor ;i irial of tin- locomotive. Tln-ir 
. 11 sense ramr to his rescue. Tln-v IKK! immense 

irr in ilir \c\vr;isilr engine-wright. ll<- had 

already made stedlasl friends of several of the lim-1 

influential men amongst them, who valued Ins manly 


uprightness ;m<l integrity, and were strongly disposed 
to l>elie\e in him, though nil tlic engineering world 
sto<><l on the one side, and lie alone on the other. His 
patient pnrpo>e, not less than his intense eai-nrstness, 
persuaded them. They adopted his recommendation, 
and offered a prize of 500/. for the Lest locomotive. 
Though many proclaimed the Liverpool men to he as 
u'reat maniacs as Stepheiison, yet the result proved the 
practical sagacity of the directors and the skill of their 
engineer ; hut it was the determined purpose of the 
latter which secured the triumph of the locomotive. 
His resolution, founded on sound convictions, was the 
precursor of what he eventually achieved ; and his 
intense anticipation was hut the true presentiment of 
what he was afterwards found capaLle of accomplishing. 
He was ready to turn his hand to anything shoes 

and clocks, railways and locomotives. He contrived his 


safety-lamp with the oLject of saving pitmen's lives, and 
perilled his own life in testing it. Whatever work was 
nearest him, he turned to and did it. AVith him to 
resolve was to do. Many men knew far more than he ; 
Lut none was more ready forthwith to apply what he 
did know to practical purposes. It was while working 
at Willington as a Lrakesman, that he first learnt how 
Lest to handle a spade in throwing Lallast out of the 
ships' holds. This casual employment seems to have 
left upon his mind the strongest impression of what 
" hard work ' was ; and he often used to revert to it, 
and say to the young men aLout him, " Ah, ye lads ! 

there's none o' ye know what icark is.' Mr. Gooch savs 

j ./ 

he was proud of the dexterity in handling a spade 
which he had thus acquired, and that he has frequently 


seen him take the shovel from a labourer in some rail- 
way cutting, and show him how to use it more deftly 
in filling waggons of earth, gravel, or sand. Sir Joshua 
Walmsley has also informed us, that, when examining 
the works of the Orleans and Tours Railway, Mr. 


Stepheiison, seeing a large number of excavators filling 
and wheeling sand in a cutting, at a great waste of time 
and labour after the manner of foreign navvies, went 
up to the men and said he would show them how to fill 
their barrow in half the time. He showed them the 
proper position in which to stand so as to exercise the 
greatest amount of power with the least expenditure of 
strength ; and he filled the barrow with comparative 
ease again and again in their presence, to the great 
delight of the workmen. When passing through his 
own workshops, lie would point out to his men how to 
save labour, and to get through their work skilfully 
and with ease. His energy imparted itself to others, 
quickening and influencing them as strong characters 
always do --flowing down into theirs, and bringing out 
their best powers. 

His deportment towards the workmen employed 
under him w r as familiar, vet firm and consistent. As 

7 t, 

he respected their manhood, so did they respect his 
masterhood. Although he comported himself towards 
his men as if they occupied very much the same level 
as himself, he yet possessed that peculiar capacity for 
governing which enabled him always to preserve 
amongst them the strictest discipline, and to secure 
their cheerful and hearty services. Mr. Ingram, M.P. 
for South Shields, one day went over the workshops at 
Newcastle with Mr. Stepheiisoii, and was particularly 
struck with this quality of the master in his bearing 
towards his men. " There was nothing," said he, " of 
undue familiarity in their intercourse, but they spoke to 
each other as man to man ; and nothing seemed to please 
the master more than to point out illustrations of the 


ingenuity <>f Ins artisans, lie took up a rivrt. and 
expatiated <>n tin- skill with whn-h it liml IH-CII fashioned 
l>v ilir workman's hand- -its i>'H<-rtin'ss ;m<l truth. He 

was always proud of Ins workmen ;m<l bis pupils; Mini, 
while indifferent Mini careless MS to what unirlit !. said 
<>!' himself, he 1iivd up iu a moment if disparagement 
were thrown upon anv out 1 whom he had laimht or 

t/ D 


In manner, George Stephenson was simple, modest, 
and unassuming, but always manly. He was frank and 
social in spirit. When a humble workman, he had 
rarel'ully preserved his sense of self-respect. His com- 
panions looked up to him, and his example was worth 
even more to many of them than books or schools. His 
devoted love of knowledge made his poverty respectable, 
and adorned his humble calling. When he rose to a 
more elevated station, and associated with men of the 
highest position and influence in Britain, he took his 
place amongst them with perfect self-possession. Tliey 
wondered at the quiet ease and simple dignity of his 
deportment ; and men in the best ranks of life have said 
of him that " He \vas one of Nature's gentlemen." 

Probably no military chiefs were ever more beloved 
by their soldiers than were both father and son by the 
army of men who, under their guidance, worked at 
labours of profit, made labours of love by their earnest 
will and purpose. True leaders of men and lords of 
industry, they were always ready to recognise and 
encourage talent in those who worked for and with 
them. Thus it was pleasant, at the openings of the 
Stephenson lines, to hear the chief engineers attributing 
the successful completion of the works to their able 
assistants ; whilst the assistants, on the other hand, 
ascribed the entire glory to their chiefs. 

A fine trait in George Stephenson' s character was his 
generosity, which would not permit an attack to be 
made upon the absent or the weak. He would never 


sanction any injustice of -act or opinion towards those 
associated with himself. On one occasion, during the 
progress of the Liverpool and Manchester works, while 
he had a strong party to contend with at the Board, the 
conduct of one of his assistants was called in question, 
as he thought unjustly, and a censure was threatened. 
Rather than submit to this injustice to his assistant, Mr. 
Stephenson tendered his resignation ; but it was not 
accepted, and the censure was not voted. The same 
chivalrous protection was on many occasions extended 
by him to the weaker against the stronger. Even if he 
were himself displeased with any one engaged about 
him, any attack from another quarter would rouse him 
in defence, not in the spirit of opposition, but from a 
kind and generous impulse to succour those in difficulty. 
Mr. Stephenson, though a thrifty and frugal man, 
was essentially unsordid. His rugged path in early life 
made him careful of his resources. He never saved to 
hoard, but saved for a purpose, such as the maintenance 
of his parents or the education of his son. In later 
years, he became a prosperous and even a wealthy man ; 
but riches never closed his heart, nor stole away the 
elasticity of his soul. He enjoyed life cheerfully, because 
hopefully. When he entered upon a commercial enter- 
prise, whether for others or for himself, he looked 
carefully at the ways and means. Unless they would 
" pay," he held back. " He would have nothing to do," 
he declared, " with stock-jobbing speculations." His 
refusal to sell his name to the schemes of the railway 
mania -his survey of the Spanish lines without remu- 
neration- -his offer to postpone his claim for payment 
from a poor company until their affairs became more 
prosperous are instances of the unsordid spirit in which 

he acted. 

Another marked feature in Mr. Stephenson' s character 

was his patience. Notwithstanding the strength of his 


coii\ ictions n> to iii- greal uses i> which the locomotive 
mighl !> applied, he waited long and patiently lor the 

< >i'i M iriiiintv of bringing il into notice; and I'm- years 
i ^ . 

after lie had completed ;m cfliciciil engine lie went on 


quietly devoting himself to the ordinarv work of ilie 
collier\\ He made no noise, nor stir ahoiit liis locomo- 


five, lnit allowed aiiollier to take credit for the experi- 
ments on velocity ami friction made with it by himself 
iijion tlie Killingworth railroad. 

r>\ ]>atient industry and laborious contrivance, lie was 
enabled, with the powerful help of his son, to do for the 
locomotive what James Watt had done for the con- 
densing' engine. He found it clumsy and inefficient; 
and he made it powerful, efficient, and useful. Both 
have been described as the improvers of their respective 
engines ; but, as to all that is admirable in their structure 
or vast in their utility, they are rather entitled to be 
described as their Inventors. While the invention of 
Watt, increased the power, and at the same time so 
regulated the action, of the steam-engine, as to make it 
capable of being applied alike to the hardest work and 
to the finest manufactures, the invention of Stephenson 
gave an effective power to the locomotive, which enabled 
it to perform the work of teams of the most powerful 
horses, and to outstrip the speed of the fleetest. Watt's 
invention exercised a wonderfully quickening influence 
on every branch of industry, and multiplied a thousand- 
fold the amount of manufactured productions ; and 
Stephenson's enabled these to be distributed with an 
economy and despatch such as had never before been 
thought possible. They have both tended to increase 
indefinitely the mass of human comforts and enjoyments, 
and to render them cheap and accessible to all. But 
Stephenson's invention, by the influence which it is 
daily exercising upon the civilisation of the world, is 
i' ven more remarkable than that of Watt, and is calcu- 


lated to have still more important consequences. In 
tins respect, it is to be regarded as the grandest applica- 
tion of steam power that has yet been discovered. 

The Locomotive, like the condensing engine, exhibits 
the realisation of various capital, but wholly distinct, 
ideas, promulgated by many ingenious inventors. Ste- 
phenson, like Watt, exhibited a power of selection, 
combination, and invention of his own, by which- -while 
availing himself of all that had been done before him, 
and superadding the many skilful contrivances devised 
by himself- -he was at length enabled to bring his engine 
into a condition of marvellous power and efficiency. 
He gathered together the scattered threads of ingenuity 
which already existed, and combined them into one firm 
and complete fabric of his own. He realised the plans 
which others had imperfectly formed ; and was the first 
to construct, what so many others had unsuccessfully 
attempted, the practical working locomotive. 

If he was occasionally impatient of the opposition of 
professional brethren, it is scarcely to be wondered at 
when we look at the simple earnestness of his character, 
and consider that his sole aim was the establishment of 
his own well-founded convictions. Xo wonder that he 
should have been intolerant of that professional gladia- 
torship against which his life had been one prolonged 
struggle. Nor could he forget that the engineering 
class had been arrayed against him during his arduous 
battle for the locomotive, and that, but for his own pluck 
and persistency, they would have strangled it in its 
cradle. A man of his stern resolution might well be a 
little positive sometimes. Who that has made his way 
through so many difficulties would not be so ? Espe- 
cially was he annoyed at the " quirks and quiddities ' 
of the barristers, who subjected him to annoying cross- 
examinations before the Parliamentary Committees. 
On coming down from the witness-box on one occasion, 
he went up to the counsel who had been severely cross- 


examining him, and said- " Oh T -, I'm ashamed of 

YOU! Ymi know inv line's the best. ;in<l that I'm in 

tliu ri"'ht ami you're in the wron^-. ;md vrt you've been 


worrying me as it' you did'nt know that I //v/x right." 

Mr. Stephenson's close mid accurate observation pro- 
vided him with ;i fulness of information on many 
subjects, which often appeared surprising to those who 
h;id drvolrd to them ;i special study. On one occasion 

the accuracy of his knowledge of birds came out in a 


curious way at a convivial meeting of railway men in 
London. The engineers and railway directors present 
knew eaeli other as railway men and nothing more. 


The talk had been all of railways and railway politics. 
Mr. Stephenson was a i>Teat talker on those subjects, 

JL < * *J 

and was generally allowed, from the interest of his 
conversation and the extent of his experience, to take 
the lead. At length one of the party broke in with- 
" Come now, Stephenson, we have had nothing but rail- 
wavs ; cannot we have a change, and try if we can talk 
a little about something else ? ' " Well," said Mr. 
Stephenson, " I'll give you a wide range of subjects ; 
what shall it be about ? ' " Say birds nests ! ' rejoined 
the other, who prided himself on his special knowledge 
of this subject. " Then birds' nests be it." A long 
and animated conversation ensued : the bird-nesting of 
his boyhood, the blackbird's nest which his father had 
held him up in his arms to look at when a child at 

AYvlani, the hedges in which lie had found the thrush's 


and the linnet's nests, the mossy bank where the robin 

built, the cleft in the branch of the young; tree where 

the chaffinch had reared its dwelling all rose up clear 
in his mind's eve, and led him back to the scenes of his 

bovhood at Callerton and Dewley Burn. The colour 

/ v 

and number of the bird's eggs, the period of their 
incubation, the materials employed by them for the 
walls and lining of their nests- -were described by him 
so vividly, and illustrated by such graphic anecdotes, 




that one of the party remarked that, if George Stephen- 
son had not been the greatest engineer of his day, he 
might have been one of the greatest naturalists. 

His powers of conversation were very great. He 
was so thoughtful, so original, and so suggestive. 
There was scarcely a department of science on which 
he had not formed some novel and sometimes daring* 


theory. Thus Mr. Gooch, his pupil, who lived with 
him when at Liverpool, informs us that when sitting 
over the fire, he would frequently broach his favourite 
theory of the sun's light and heat being the original 
source of the light and heat given forth by the burning 
coal. " It fed the plants of which that coal is made," 
he would say, " and has been bottled up in the earth 
ever since, to be given out again now for the use of 
man." l His son Robert once said of him, "My father 
flashed his bull's-eye full upon a subject, and brought it 
out in its most vivid light in an instant : his strong 
common sense, and his varied experience operating upon 
a thoughtful mind, were his most powerful illuminators." 

Mr. Stephenson had once a conversation with a 
watchmaker, whom he astonished by the extent and 
minuteness of his knowledge as to the parts of a watch. 
The watchmaker knew him to be an eminent engineer, 
and asked how he had acquired so extensive a know- 
ledge of a branch of business so much out of his sphere. 
"It is very easy to be explained," said Mr. Stephenson ; 
" I worked long at watch-cleaning myself, and when 
I was at a loss, I was never ashamed to ask for 

It is Go the, we believe, who has said that no man 
ever receives a new idea, at variance with his precon- 
ceived notions, after forty. But this observation, though 

1 Mr. AV. B. Adams, in his ' Roads 
and Rails,' London, 1862, cites a 
passage from a volume of vliymes 
published by Effingham Wilson in 

L831, from which it would appear 
that the same idea had occurred to 
other thinkers besides George tSte- 

476 lir.MAN EQUALITY. < HAP. XXI. 

it mav l>e erenerally, is n<>l invariably Irue. There are 

niMiiv greal miinls which aever close. Mr. Stephenson, 

t< tlic lust. WaS Mjicil t> tin- reception of Hew ld';is, liew 

fact-. iu-\v theories, lit- was ;i late learner; bul he 
wnit on [earning t tin- end. He shut his mind, how- 


ever, against what In- considered humbugs especially 
mechanical humbugs. Tints, lie said at Tamworth, that 

he had iut been t see the atmospheric railway, hrraiise 
it was ;i oreal liumbuir. He had irnne to sec Pinkns's 


model nt'it. and that liad determined him on tlie subject. 
lie then declared tlie atmospheric system to Le "a rope 
of sand;' that it could never hold together, and he 
would not countenance it. 

When he heard of Perkins's celebrated machine, which 
was said to work at a tremendous pressure, without 
steam, but with water in the boiler almost at red heat, 
he went with his son to see it. Tlie engine exhibited 
was of six-horse power, and the pressure was said to be 
not less than 1500 Ibs. to the square inch. .Mr. Ste- 
phenson said he thought it humbug; but lie would test 
its power. Taking up a little oakum, and wrapping 
some round each hand, he firmly seized hold of the 
piston-rod and held it down with all his strength. The 
machine was at once brought to a stand, very much to 
Mr. Perkins's annoyance. But the humbug had been 
exploded to Mr. Stephenson' s satisfaction. 

Towards the close of his life he frequently went down 
to Newcastle, and visited the scenes of his boyhood. 


"I have been to Callerton," said he one day to a friend, 
"and seen tlie fields in which I used to pull turnips at 
twopence a day ; and many a cold finger, I can tell you, 
I had." 

On one occasion, he accidentally met a gentleman 
and his wife at an inn in Derbyshire, whom he enter- 
tained for some time with his shrewd observations and 
playful sallies. At length the lady requested to know 
the name of the remarkable stranger. " Why, madam," 


said he, " they used once to call me Geordie Stephen- 
son ; I'm now called George Stepheiison, Esquire, 
of Tapton House, near Chesterfield. And further let 
me say, that I've dined with princes, and peers, and 
commoners --with persons of all classes, from the highest 
to the humblest ; I've made my dinner off a red-herring 
in a hedge bottom, and gone through the meanest 
drudgery ; I've seen mankind in all its phases, and the 
conclusion I have arrived at is- -that if we're all 
stripped, there's not much difference." 

His hand was open to his former fellow- workmen 
whom old age had left in poverty. To poor Robert 
Gray, of Newburn, who acted as his bridesman on his 
marriage to Fanny Henderson, he left a pension for life. 
He would slip a five-pound note into the hand of a poor 
man or a widow in such a way as not to offend their 
delicacy, but to make them feel as if the obligation were 
all on his side. When Farmer Paterson, who married 
a sister of George's first wife, Fanny Henderson, died 
and left a large young family fatherless, poverty stared 
them in the face. " But ye ken," said our informant, 
66 George struck in fayther for them." And perhaps the 
providential character of the act could not have been 
more graphically expressed than in these simple words. 

On his visits to Newcastle, he would frequently meet 
the friends of his early days, occupying very nearly the 
same station, while he had meanwhile risen to almost 
world- wide fame. But he was 110 less hearty in his 
greeting of them than if their relative position had 
continued the same. Thus, one day, after shaking hands 
with Mr. Brandling on alighting from his carriage, he 
proceeded to shake hands with his coachman, Anthony 
Wigham, a still older friend, though he only sat 011 the 

Robert Stephenson inherited his father's kindly spirit 
and benevolent disposition. He almost worshipped his 
father's memory, and was ever ready to attribute to him 


c chief mcrii of his o\\ n achievements ;is ;m ciiLri 

" It was his thorough 1 ruining," we once heard liim s;iy, 

"his example, and his character, which made UK- tin- 
man I am." < )n ; nnuv puhlic occasion he said, k> It is 
niv sfreal pride to remember, that whatever mav have 


heen d<>ne, and however extensive may have heen my 
M\\n connection with railway development, all I know 
and all I have done is primarily due to the parent 
whose memory L cherish and revere." To Mi-. Louirh, 
the sculptor, he said he had never had but two loves 
one for his father, the other for his wife. 

Like his father, lie was eminently practical, and yet 
alwavs open to the influence and guidance of correct 
theory. 2 His main consideration in laying out his lines 
of railwav was what would best answer the intended 


purpose, or, to use his own words, to secure the maximum 
of result with the minimum of means. He was pre- 
eminently a safe man, because cautious, tentative, and 
experimental; following closely the lines of conduct 
trodden by his father, and often quoting his maxims. 

In society Robert Stephenson was simple, unobtrusive, 
and modest ; but charming and even fascinating in an 
eminent degree. Sir John Lawrence has said of him 
that lie was, of all others, the man he most delighted to 
meet in England- -he was so manly, yet gentle, and 
withal so great. While admired and beloved by men 
of such calibre, he was equally a favourite w r ith women 
and children. He put himself upon the level of all, and 
charmed them 110 less by his inexpressible kindliness of 
manner than by his simple yet impressive conversation. 

1 Address as President of the Insti- 
tution of Civil Engineers, January, 

2 Writing from Mariquita, South 
America, in 1820, when only tAventy- 
three years of age, he said : " Practi- 
cal men are certainly to be esteemed 
as such, but I am far from attaching 
the importance to them which our 
masters appear inclined to do. In- 

deed, in the working of gold and 
silver mines in veins in this country, 
it is absolutely essential that theory 
and practice should be united and go 
hand in hand ; not that the former 
should be appreciated beyond its value, 
and the other depreciated belo\v it, 
but that both should be entitled to 
equal consideration and weight." 


His great wealth enabled him to perform many 
generous acts in a right noble and yet modest manner, 
not letting his right hand know what his left hand did. 
Of the numerous kindly acts of his which haye been 
made public, we may mention the graceful manner in 
which he repaid the obligations which both himself and 
his father owed to the Newcastle Literary and Philosophi- 
cal Institute, when working together as humble experi- 
menters in their cottage at Killing worth. The Institute 
was struggling under a debt of 6200/., which seriously 
impaired its usefulness as an educational agency. Robert 
Stephenson offered to pay one-half of the sum, provided 
the local supporters of the Institute would raise the 
remainder ; and conditional also on the annual subscrip- 
tion being reduced from two guineas to one, in order 
that the usefulness of the institution might be extended. 
The generous offer was accepted, and the debt extin- 

Both father and son were offered knighthood, and 
both declined it. George Stephenson, however, did 
desire to be admitted to the membership of the Institute 
of Civil Engineers, the chair of which his son afterwards 
so ably filled. But there were two obstacles to George's 


admission to the Institute : the first was, that he had 
served no regular apprenticeship as an engineer ; and 
the second was, that he should go through the form 
required of the youngest member of the profession, and 
fill in a paper detailing his experience, to which he 
must afterwards obtain the signatures of several mem- 
bers of the Institute, recommending him personally and 
professionally for election. He could not comply with 
the first condition, and his son strongly recommended 
him not to comply with the second. The council of the 
Institute were willing to waive the former, but not the 
latter point. Probably he thought it was too much to 
ask of him, that he should undergo the probationary 
test required from comparatively unknown juniors, and 


Mate Ill's experience as an m^iinM-r t< a so.-irtv many of 

\\IIOM- mrmhrrs had 1 ecu his o\vn pupils or assistants. 

And liis son held the opinion that ;i society which had 
elected many sririnilie gentlemen of llu-ir body MS 
honorary members, would not have done itself discredil 
l>\- admitting the Father of Uailyvay Engineering on ilic 

* < ' 

same terms. As it was, lie turned liis baek, though 
ri'hn-tMiitlv, nn flic Institute of Civil Enu'inocrs, and 

accepted ilir oi'lirc of President of flic Institution of 
Mechanical Engineers at Birmingham, which he held 
until liis death. 

During- the summer of 1847, George Stephenson was 
invited to offer himself as a candidate for the repre- 
sentation of South Shields in Parliament. l>ut his 
politics were at hest of a very undefined sort ; indeed 
his life had been so much occupied with subjects of a 
practical character, that he had scarcely troubled himself 
to form any decided opinion on the party political topics 
of the day; and to stand the cross fire of the electors 
on the hustings might have been found an even more 
distressing ordeal than the cross-questioning of the 
barristers in the Committees of the House of Commons. 
" Politics,' he used to sav, " are all matters of theory 

/ ' t 

there is no stability in them ; they shift about like the 
sands of the sea ; and I should feel quite out of my 
element amongst them." He had accordingly the good 
sense respectfully to decline the honour of contesting 
the representation of South Shields. 

\Ve have, however, been informed by Sir Joseph 
Paxton, that although George Stephenson held no 
strong opinions on political questions generally, there 
was one question on which he entertained a decided 
conviction, and that was the question of Free-trade. 
The words used by him on one occasion to Sir Joseph 
were very strong. " England," said he, " is, and must 
be a shopkeeper ; and our docks and harbours are only 
so many wholesale shops, the doors of which should 



always be kept wide open." It is curious that his son 
Robert should have taken precisely the opposite view of 
this question, and acted throughout with the most rigid 
party amongst the protectionists, supporting the Navi- 
gation Laws and opposing Free Trade, even to the 
extent of going into the lobby on the 26th November, 
1852, with the famous " cannon-balls." l 

But Robert Stephenson will be judged in after times 
by his achievements as an engineer, rather than by his 
acts as a politician ; and happily these last were far 
outweighed in value by the immense practical services 
which he rendered to trade, commerce, and civilisation, 
through the facilities which his railways afforded for free 
intercommunication between men in all parts of the 
world. Speaking in the midst of his friends at New- 
castle, in 1850, he observed :- 

" It seems to me but as yesterday that I was engaged 
as an assistant in laying out the Stockton and Darlington 
Railway. Since then, the Liverpool and Manchester 
and a hundred other great works have sprung into 
existence. As I look back upon these stupendous 
undertakings, accomplished in so short a time, it seems 
as though we had realised in our generation the fabled 
powers of the magician's wand. Hills have been cut 
down and valleys filled up ; and when these simple 
expedients have not sufficed, high and magnificent 
viaducts have been raised, and, if mountains stood in 
the way, tunnels of unexampled magnitude have pierced 
them through, bearing their triumphant attestation to 
the indomitable energy of the nation, and the unrivalled 
skill of our artisans.' 

1 For the origin of this term see the 
' Times ' leader of November 29th, 
1852. The division took place on 
Lord Palmerston's motion as to the 
results of the Free-trade policy adopted 
by Sir Robert Peel in 1846, on which 
there appeared 486 for, and 53 against 


it. The Noes included Robert Stephen- 
son, Colonel Sibthorp, Mr. Spooner, 
&c. Mr. Stephenson felt very strongly 
the " betrayal of the protectionist party" 
by their Parliamentary leader ; and he 
even went so far as to say that he 
" could never forgive Peel." 




A- respects tin- innm-nM- advantages <>l railways to 

mankind, there cannol hr two opinions. They exhibit, 
probably, tin- grandesl organisation of capital and 

labour thai tin- world has \H seen. Although they 
IIMVC unhappily occasioned ^ivnt loss to ninny, tin- 
loss lias lirrn that, of individuals; whilst, ;is ;i aational 
system, flic ^nin li;is already IJUCMI cnornions. A- 
tending to multiply and spi-ca*! abroad tliu conveniences 
of litr, ojK'iiin^ np new fields of industry, In-in^iiiLi 1 
nations m-aivr to each other, and thus promoting the 
u'tvat ends of civilisation, the founding of the railway 
system by George Stephenson and his son must be 
ir^arded as one of the most important events, if not 
the very greatest, in the first half of tin's nineteenth 









2 i 2 


" WHEN my father commenced his improvements upon the loco- 
motive engine, two comparatively successful attempts had already 
been made one by Mr. Blenkinsop, of Leeds, and the other by 
Mr. Blackett, of Wylam. 

" Mr. Blenkinsop's engine consisted of two cylinders working 
upon cranks at right angles to each other, and communicating 
their joint action to a cog-wheel which worked into a cog-rail. 
The wheels which supported the engine were entirely inde- 
pendent of the working parts of the engine, and therefore 
merely supported its weight upon the rails, the progress being 
made by means of the cog-wheel working into the cog-rail. 
Mr. Blenkinsop was induced to resort to this contrivance from 
the conviction (then prevalent in the minds of all engineers) 
that the adhesion between a smooth wheel and a smooth rail 
was not sufficient to resist the action of the engines that is, 
the wheel would slip round upon the rail, and consequently no 
progress would be made. These engines of Mr. Blenkinsop's 
worked for some time with apparent success. 

" The other attempt by Mr. Blackett also consisted of two 
engines combined ; but their action was communicated to the 
wheels by which the entire engine was supported, and therefore 
depended entirely upon the adhesion between the wheels and 
the rails for making progress. This experiment of Mr. Blackett's 
was made upon what is called a tramroad, the flange being 
upon the rail, instead of (as it is at present in the ordinary 
rails) upon the wheel. 

" When my father began his first engine he was convinced that 
the adhesion between a smooth wheel and an edge-rail would be 
as efficient as Mr. Blackett had found it to be between the 
wheel and the tramroad. Although every one at that time 
argued that the adhesion upon a tram-rail was by no means a 


eriterit.n of \\li;i1 the ;n 1 1 |i <!< H I Wnllld I).- nil nil edge-rail, ln\ 

father felt sure thai there w;is ni essential difiTrmv between 

tile nlle ami lll< 1 ntllrl 1 . 

"The eoii>trneliMii nf mv falherV Mr-1 engine was \erv mueli 


after tin- Mime plan as that made hy3Ir. Blenkinsop ; hut ih-- 

((Unbilled |>nW<T nf the t\V<> rvl ]' I ld< !> \V,MS nil 1 1 II Mil I i<"l t < -d In the 


\\heel> \\llicll Supported ihe rugl'lli- nil the rail iliste-ad nf 1<i 
ihe eni:-\vliee], which, ill Ml'. 1'dellk i I ISn] "s engine, acted nil 

a <-- -d-rail independently of the four supporting \\heeU. 
This engine was completed and tried UJHHI the Killingworth 
railway on th- L'."tli July, 1814. It ]>erfni-ined its duties with 
cninparativc success; but, having to compete with horses. \ 
considered barely economical. At the end of the year, how- 
ever, the steam-power and horse-power were found to be very 
nearly on a par with each other in regard to cost. A few 
months of experience and careful observation upon the opera- 
tion of this engine convinced uiy father^that the complication 
arising out of the action of the two cylinders being combined 
by spur-wheels would prevent their coming into practical appli- 
cation. He then directed his attention to an entire change in 
the construction and mechanical arrangements, and in the fol- 
lowing year took out a patent, dated February 28th, 181.">. for 
an engine which combined in a remarkable degree the essential 
requisites of an economical locomotive that is to say, few 
parts, simplicity in their action, and great simplicity in the 
mode by which the power was communicated to the wheels sup- 
porting the engine. 

" This second engine consisted as before of two vertical cylin- 
ders, which communicated directly Avith each pair of the four 
wheels that supported the engine by a cross-head and a pair of 
connecting rods ; but in attempting to establish a direct com- 
munication between the cylinders and the wheels that rolled 
upon the rails, considerable difficulties presented themselves. 
The ordinary joints could not be employed to unite the engine, 
which was a rigid mass, with the wheels rolling upon the irre- 
gular surface of the rails; for it was evident that the two rails 
of the line of railway could not always be maintained at the 
same level with respect to each other that one wheel at the 
end of the axle might be depressed into a pail of the line which 
had subsided, whilst the other would be elevated. In such a 
position of the axle and wheels it was clear that a rigid com- 
munication between the cross-head and the wheels was ini- 


practicable. Hence it became necessary to form a joint at the 
top of the piston-rod where it united with the cross-head, so as 
to permit the cross-head always to preserve complete parallelism 
with the axle of the wheels with which it was in communi- 

" In order to obtain the flexibility combined with direct .action 
which was essential for ensuring power and avoiding needless 
friction and jars from irregularities in the rail, my father em- 
ployed the "ball and socket" joint for effecting a union between 
the ends of the cross-heads where they united with the con 
necting-rods, and between the end of the connecting-rods where 
they were united with the crank-pins attached to each driving- 
wheel. By this arrangement the parallelism between the cross- 
head and the axle was at all times maintained, it being per- 
mitted to take place without producing jar or friction upon any 
part of the machine. 

" The next important point was to combine each pair of wheels 
by some simple mechanism, instead of the cog-w r heels which 
had formerly been used. My father began by inserting each 
axle into two cranks at right angles to each other, with rods 
communicating horizontally between them. An engine was 
made on this plan, and answered extremely well. But at that 
period (1815) the mechanical skill of the country was not equal 
to the task of forging cranked axles of the soundness and 
strength necessary to stand the jars incident to locomotive work ; 
so my father was compelled to fall back upon a substitute 
which, though less simple and less efficient, was within the me- 
chanical capabilities of the workmen of that clay, either for 
construction or repair. He adopted a chain which rolled over 
indented wheels placed on the centre of each axle, and so 
arranged that the two pairs of wheels were effectually coupled 
and made to keep pace with each other. But these chains 
after a few years' use, became stretched, and then the engines 
were liable to irregularity in their working, especially in 
changing from working back to forward again. Nevertheless, 
these engines continued in profitable use upon the Killing-worth 
Colliery Railway for some years. Eventually the chain w r as 
laid aside, and the front and hind-wheels were united by rods 
on the outside, instead of by rods and crank-ankles inside, as 
specified in the original patent ; and this expedient completely 
answered the purpose required, without involving any expensive 
or difficult workmanship. 


"Another Important improvement was introduced in tin's en- 
gine. Tin' eduction >1r;llll ]|;|il hitherto heell allowed to e<c;i|n- 

diivci into tli' ojM'ii atmosphere : but my lather, having ohsen ed 
the ijivai velocity \\iih \\hich tin- waste-steam ex-aped, com- 
pared \\itli tin- velocity with \\hich the smoke issued IVoin the 
chiiiiiie\- of the same engine, thought that b\ convevin- the 


eduction >team into the chimney and there allowing it to ex-ape 
in a vertical direction, its velocity would be imparted to the 
smoke 1'rom the engine, or to the ascending current of air in the 
chimney. 'Idle experiment was no sooner made than the power 
of the engine became more than doubled ; combustion was 
stimulated, as it were, by a Mast; consequently the power of 
the boiler for generating steam was increased, and, in the same 
proportion, the useful duty of the engine was augmented. 

"Thus in 1815 my father had succeeded in manufacturing an 
engine which included the following important improvements 
on all previous attempts in the same direction : simple and 
direct communication between the cylinder and the wheels 
rolling upon the rails ; joint adhesion of all the wheels, attained 
by the use of horizontal connecting-rods ; and, finally, a beautiful 
method of exciting the combustion of fuel by employing the 
waste-steam which had formerly been allowed uselessly to 
escape. It is, perhaps, not too much to say that this engine, 
as a mechanical contrivance, contained the germ of all that has 
since been effected. It may be regarded, in fact, as a type of 
the present locomotive engine. 

" In describing my father's application of the waste-steam for 
the purpose of increasing the intensity of combustion in the 
boiler, and thus increasing the power of the engine without 
adding to its weight, and while claiming for this engine the 
merit of being a type of all those which have been successfully 
devised since the commencement of the Liverpool and Man- 
chester Railway, it is necessary to observe that the next great 
improvement in the same direction, the " multitubular boiler," 
which took place some years later, could never have been used 
without the help of that simple expedient the steam-blast, by 
which power only the burning of coke was rendered possible. 

" I cannot pass over this last-named invention of my father's 
without remarking how slightly, as an original idea, it has been 
appreciated ; and yet how small would be the comparative value 
of the locomotive engine of the present day without the applica- 
tion of that important invention ! 


" Engines constructed by my father in the year 1818 upon the 
principles just described are in use on the Killing-worth Colliery 
Railway to this very day (1857), conveying, at the speed of 
perhaps five or six miles an hour, heavy coal-trains, probably as 
economically as any of the more perfect engines now in use. 

" There was another remarkable piece of ingenuity in this ma- 
chine, which was completed so many years before the possibility 
of steam-locomotion became an object of general commercial 
interest and parliamentary inquiry. I have before observed 
that up to and after the year 1818 there was no such class of 
skilled' mechanics, nor were there such machinery and tools for 
working in metals, as are now at the disposal of inventors and 
manufacturers. Among other difficulties of a similar character, 
it was not possible at that time to construct springs of sufficient 
strength to support the improved engines. The rails then used 
being extremely light, the roads became worn down by the 
traffic, and occasional!} 7 the whole weight of the engine, instead 
of being uniformly distributed over four wheels, was thrown 
almost diagonally upon two. In order to avoid the danger 
arising from such irregularities in the road, my father arranged 
the boiler so that it was supported upon the frame of the engine 
by four cylinders which opened into the interior of the boiler. 
These cylinders were occupied by pistons with rods which passed 
downwards and pressed upon the upper side of the axles. The 
cylinders opening into the interior of the boiler allowed the 
pressure of steam to be applied to the upper side of the piston, 
and that pressure being nearly equal to the support of one- 
fourth of the weight of the engine, each axle, whatever might 
be its position, had the same amount of weight to bear, and 
consequently the entire weight was at all times nearly equally 
distributed amongst the wheels. This expedient was more neces- 
sary in this case, as the weight of the new locomotive engines 
far exceeded that of the carriages which had hitherto been used 
upon colliery railways, and therefore subjected the rails to much 
greater risk from breakage. And this mode of supporting the 
engine remained in use until the progress of spring-making had 
considerably advanced, when steel springs of sufficient strength 
superseded this highly ingenious mode of distributing the weight 
of the engine uniformly among the wheels. 

"Having advanced the locomotive engine to this stage of 
improvement, my father next turned his attention to the state 
of the road ; as he perceived, and said, that the extended use 

of tin- locomotive must depend upon ili<- perfection of the road 

upon which it \\;is to move. Kveii ;M lliis early date In- was in 
the haMl of cmi-iderinu' tin- n.;id and llie locomotive as one 
machine. All railways ;it that time were laid in ;i careless and 


loose manner, and great inequalities of leve] were permitted t< 

take place without much attention to repairs. tin- n-idt lieinn 
that irreat loss of po\\er and great wear-and-tear of machinery 
\\vre incurred. 

" My father therefore now began to direct his close attention to 
the improvement of the mad, and to making it more substantial 
and solid. \Yith that object he applied his mind particularly 
to removing the inequalities produced by the imperfect junction 
between rail and rail. The rails were then made of cast-iron, 
each being three feet long. Care was not taken to maintain 
the points of junction on the same level with each other; and 
the chair or cast iron pedestal into which the rails were inserted 
In- ing flat on the bottom, it happened that whenever any 
disturbance took place in the stone blocks or sleepers upon 
which they were supported, the flat base upon which the rails 
rested being tilted by unequal subsidence, the end of one rail 
became depressed, while that of the other was elevated. This 
was most seriously felt, since, in the condition in which railways 
were the